Despite Eiji being hungover just the other day, they found themselves in another bar anyway.
Ash spent the entire time searching for the meaning of the words on his palm while Eiji spent the entire time groaning in bed, recovering from the previous night. He claimed he still hadn’t gotten better and lamented about it in the Louvre which they ventured that morning. Still, Eiji was here nevertheless.
“I’m pretty sure I told myself I was going to stay away from alcohol until the next month or something.” Eiji mumbled while he buried his head in his arms. Unlike last night, they were in a table instead of the counter. Eiji insisted it so that he wouldn’t see or smell so much liquor in one place.
“Don’t worry, I ordered juice for the little boy.” Ash snickered, but Eiji just gave a halfhearted shrug.
“I know you’re being condescending right now, but I really can’t at the moment.” He still hadn’t risen up from his position on the table, looking more and more like a sorry heap from his usual cheery self. The sound of people singing in the background filled in the pause between them. It was apparently a karaoke bar.
“I really did order you juice though.” More singing.
This time, Eiji did look up. “Oh.”
Just in time for the waiter to set a glass of orange juice for Eiji and a bottle of beer of Ash.
“I’m never gonna get myself black out drunk again. At least I can cross it off the list now.” Eiji rest his cheek on the cool surface if the table top. Eiji grabbed the glass and sipped tentatively from it. He only managed an eighth of the content before he pushed it. In doing so he managed to spill some of the contents on the table. He groaned and signaled the waiter for a napkin. In Japanese. Ash wondered if he even noticed.
“Ugh. I can’t even English anymore.” He declared.
The waiter wiped the table anyway.
“Arigatou.” Eiji mumbled sullenly.
“Douitashimashte.” He replied in kind and that made Eiji snap up, eyes wide. His vice was smooth a deep.
“Nihon-jin desuka? Nihongo ga wakarimasuka?” Eiji asked in excitement. And that was all Ash could follow in the conversation. Both of them talked too fast with growing enthusiasm each second. Eiji’s hangover seemed to have been willed away by interest alone. Ash maybe feeling a pang of jealousy. Okay maybe not a pang, a large bit of jealousy. He swore he’ll learn the damn language.
Eiji turned to Ash with a wide grin, as if he’d only remembered Ash was still there. “He could speak Japanese!”
“No shit.” Eiji still had the habit of stating the obvious. This only made Eiji pout a bit before he went back to conversing with the man. This just ticked Ash some more. He ended up staring at the people on stage who were singing with the lyrics on the screen. Soon enough the song was over and the two were still not yet done conversing.
“We have a free spot. Anyone want to sing in front?” The lady on stage asked the crowd. Before Ash could actually think about it, he pulled Eiji’s hand up.
“He volunteers!” Ash yelled and Eiji looked at him first with confusion, followed by disbelief, then absolute horror when it finally dawned to him what Ash signed him up for.
“What the hell?!” Eiji spluttered while the people around them cheered.
Ash gave him a cheeky grin. “I distinctly remembered you wanted to do something reckless. Here’s your chance.” And then he gave Eiji a push towards the crowd so that they could lead him on stage.
“Not like this!” Eiji hissed.
“Good luck!” Ash yelled back, and in a sudden uncharacteristic course of action, Eiji gave him the middle finger in response and Ash can’t help the laughter that left his mouth bordering on a hysterical cackle. He then turned to the waiter who still haven’t left them after he calmed down.
“So you’re part Japanese?”
The man shook his head. “No. But I’ve been to Japan. I’m learning Japanese.” He explained before leaving to attend the other people in the packed bar. Ash shrugged and turned back to the stage.
Eiji stood there together with the lady.
“Hello honey, are you a tourist?” She started to talk with this heavy French accent to Eiji who was looking like a deer caught in the headlights.
“H-hai…I mean! Yes. Yes…I’m Japanese.” His face was flaming red, his eyes looked everywhere but the woman. Cute. Ash sipped from his beer to hide the lovesick grin on his face.
“It’s great that you decided to visit here in Paris. It’s pretty lovely, oui?” The woman was really chipper and the entire room seemed to buzz with her energy. Eiji was getting more comfortable with all the eyes on him. His shoulders started lose their tension.
“Yes. It is. Much better than London.” He said with a soft chuckle and the woman broke into a wide Cheshire like grin, the entire room cheered to that, probably less than sober in every passing minute.
“That’s my boy! Now, are you here in the city of love with someone special? Is that your boyfriend with you?” She exclaimed, with that Ash choked and almost did a spit take. On stage, Eiji looked like he was about to combust.
“N-no. He’s not my boyfriend.” He murmured to the mic, looking at Ash for a spilt second, then looking away quickly.
“It’s alright dear, we get lots of kinds here. We don’t mind.” The woman winked at him with this wickedness. Eiji grumbled something to her off mic and her eyes widen, her lips pursed into a shock, then a mischievous grin. Something about that look spelled disaster to Ash. And then after tossing Ash a short glance, she whispered something to Eiji’s ear, making both of them laugh.
Ash did not like that cryptic interaction. He did not like not knowing. He did not like the feeling burning in his gut. He did not like to acknowledge it. Acknowledging it meant he was admitting to himself that he was feeling so much infatuation for Eiji to feel jealous when he paid more attention to other people other than him.
Son of a bitch.
Feelings were hard. But yes, Ash felt jealous when he paid more attention to this woman, like when he paid more attention to that waiter and Ash could not understand a lick of what they were saying. Jealousy was such an ugly feeling, it burned in his stomach, twisted in his chest and clawed at his throat, leaving a bitter feeling on his mouth.
He swore he was going to learn how to speak Japanese.
And then Ash was hit by a moment of inspiration.
He scrambled to look for the waiter that came by their table a while ago and flagged him with a wave of his hand. “Hey!” He called out until he came over. “Hey! Wait—wait, you know Japanese right? Can you help me read this?! It’s really important.” He tried not to show the desperation in his tone, but he was almost certain he was failing epically.
“Oui sir. Where is it? So long as it’s not kanji.” The server was eager enough, but when Ash looked at his palm, the writing there was smudged, likely due to the condensation from the bottle. His heart sank and he groaned.
“Oh my. Bad luck.” The waiter tutted.
“No not yet. Do you have a pen?” He snatched some napkins on the table while the man thankfully handed him a pen from his chest pocket. Ash had never been more thankful for his nearly perfect photographic memory and managed to somehow recreate the words, albeit in his wonky handwriting instead. The lights also made it difficult to write anything legibly.
Meanwhile the conversation on stage continued and Ash tried his best not to get distracted by it.
“Alright honey, pick a song.” The woman stage said.
Eiji had determined eyes when he picked his song. “Somebody to Love by Queen.” Of course. He stared at Ash with this meaningful look in his eyes. Brown eyes to green, a second passed, then two. Ash tore his eyes away from his.
The woman said something in French to the crowd. Ash drowned it out. He needed to focus on this.
‘大好きだよ’ The paper wrote. He prayed his penmanship in Japanese was legible.
“There! Can you translate it?” He slid the napkin to the man.
He picked up the paper and squinted at it really hard before he finally perked up in recognition.
“Oui. It means: Dai suki da yo. It’s Japon for I love you, Je t’aime. Or I really like you. If you haven’t known each other that long, it could mean I really like spending time with you. En réalité though it’s a way of saying affection.”
Ash technically heard the rest of what he was saying but his brain stopped registering at I love you. And it repeated in his mind over and over and over again.
It couldn’t be…right?
He stared back at Eiji just as the music started, stunned.
But what else could it mean?
“Can anybody find me…” The Japanese cleared his throat. “Somebody to…”
The soft melody of a piano started to play. Ash was almost sure that the song picked wasn’t just a coincidence either. The looks Eiji had been sending him should mean something right? The soft burn in his gaze made Ash’s face heat up.
“Each morning I get up I die a little. Can barely stand on my feet.” Eiji started to sing to the mic. “Take a look in the mirror and cry. Lord, what you're doing to me. I have spent all my years in believing you. But I just can't get no relief, Lord! Somebody!”
“Can anybody find me somebody to love?” Eiji’s singing voice never was the best, but it was charmingly alluring Ash like a siren song. The lilt of his accented voice was achingly familiar over the months they spent together. Slowly enough, Eiji’s unsure posture melted away, little by little gaining confidence. “Everyday I try and I try and I try, but everybody wants to put me down. They say I'm going crazy. They say I got a lot of water in my brain. Ah, got no common sense. I got nobody left to believe in.”
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
“Oh, Lord. Ooh somebody, ooh somebody. Can anybody find me somebody to love?”
God he was beautiful. Ash could never deny it and he’d been saying this a lot lately, but it was true. He was beautiful, absolutely stunning, blindingly gorgeous just as he started to sway with the music, feeling the beat of the song in his blood. He looked like he tasted freedom for the first time in year, a bird soaring out in the air. It was the same look he had when he jumped over that wall.
And apparently Eiji loved him. It couldn’t be right? It couldn’t be. There must be some mistake…right?
“Got no feel, I got no rhythm, I just keep losing my beat. I'm OK, I'm alright I ain't gonna face no defeat. I just gotta get out of this prison cell, one day I'm gonna be free, Lord!” And then the people started to sing with him, though they may have changed the lyrics in support. Imagine a French bar singing an English song from a British band, how unusual.
Find him somebody to love, Find him somebody to love, Find him somebody to love, Find him somebody to love, Find him somebody to love…
Find him somebody to love
Find him somebody to love
Find him somebody to love love love…
But it would make sense, all those cryptic messages would make sense and knowing how nervous Eiji was, how deeply he always cared about what Ash wanted, it’d make sense why he was so reluctant to say it.
Find him somebody to love
Find him somebody to love
Somebody somebody somebody somebody
Somebody find me
Somebody find me somebody to love
Ash needed time to let it all sink in.
“Can anybody find me somebody to love?” Eiji grinned at the audience, absolutely nothing holding him back now. This was courage no alcohol can give. And Ash found his feet moving on its own volition, moving forward. Fuck it. They might’ve decided.
Find me somebody to love
Find me somebody to love
Find me somebody, somebody somebody, somebody to love
Find me, find me, find me, find me, find me
Ooh, somebody to love. Find me somebody to love
“Ooh find me somebody to love.” Ash was moving towards Eiji, he’s not so sure what he was doing. His mind was all blank when he approached. He was already going up the stage.
Find me, find me, find me somebody to love
Anybody, anywhere, anybody find me somebody to love love love!
Eiji was just a ten paces away. Five. Three. Two. One.
“Can anybody find me? Somebody to….—“
Ash’s brain registered a couple of things slowly and then all at once.
First, the crowd was cheering loudly, louder than it ever did for the night but they were muffled and he sounded like he was underwater. Second, he was clutching someone’s shirt. Apparently it was Eiji’s and he was pulling him into his direction. Third, he wasn’t breathing, not that he couldn’t but rather he didn’t want to. Fourth his mouth tasted something citrusy, something fruity, something like orange juice...
And fifth, he was kissing Eiji.
He was kissing Eiji Okumura.
Holy fuck he was kissing Eiji Okumura.
…He was kissing him back.
Deeply, desperately, filthily, mind-blowingly. He kissed him like a man in need of the sun, devoured him with so much hunger in his mouth. He moaned and melted into Ash’s body. Vaguely, Ash could feel arms wrapping around him, clinging to him for support.
Eventually they needed to part for air, and Eiji was a wreck. Swollen lips, flushed face, blown wide eyes. It was amazing, it was thrilling, it was wonderful. Ash probably looked the same. Disbelief was on Eiji’s expression, his mind probably blank at the moment until he choked up a few garbled words.
“….Holy shit.” He gasped. “Holy shit.” And then laughed hysterically after exclaiming and he ran his hand on his hair, clutching the black strands. He sounded breathless. Ash felt the same, in fact his heart was still pounding like crazy in his chest.
“I think that’s the first time I heard you curse.” Ash chuckled because it was all he could do. Subconsciously, he could feel his knees getting weaker and he clutched at Eiji’s shirt harder. “But yeah, holy shit indeed.”
“Stop being mean and kiss me again. You have no idea how long I waited for you to do that!” Eiji bemoaned. Ash snickered but obliged. He took Eiji by the cheeks and pressed another kiss on his lips, albeit a more chaste one this time.
Ash couldn’t believe this was happening to him.
The crowd cheered congratulations to them. Ash suddenly remembered their audience and he felt a bit conscious with this overly public display of affection. In fact, he couldn’t believe he actually publicly confessed his feelings to Eiji. Eiji seemed to share his sentiments.
“So,” He started. “How about going somewhere more private?”
They ended up leaning on a bridge overlooking the river Seine.
“So…” Eiji began.
“So?” Ash tried to look him in the eye without flushing. He failed.
“You like me.” Eiji looked like he wanted to curl up, but at the same time he also sounded coy, almost smug about it, together with disbelief. “Romantically.”
“Shut up.” Ash grumbled and buried his face in his hand. “It’s not like you don’t like me back. Stop sounding so smug about it you little shit.”
“When?” Eiji asked him in lieu of a witty comeback, and now he sounded shy too. “When did you start liking me?”
This made Ash pause. His answer was: “I don’t know.” He shrugged. “For a while now I guess. But it was your sister who pointed it out to me.”
At this Eiji squawked. “K-kimiko?!” He looked troubled. “Sh-she told you? That you like me?”
Ash shrugged again. “She helped me realize. Apparently it was that obvious even though I didn’t see it at that time.
Eiji counted on his fingers. “That was nearly six months ago!” He ran a hand on his hair. And then looked back at Ash. “All this time?”
“Yep. Apparently.” Ash smiled. “You? Tell me when you started liking me.”
Eiji stared at his hands. “I think I’ve always liked you ever since I saw you.” He confessed and Ash can’t help that disbelieving laugh that escaped his lips.
“No. I mean it. I mean come on, you know how you look. There’s no way I couldn’t be infatuated with you in some physical way or another. I’m very very gay Ash, and you look—“ He gestured at Ash’s entire body in a way that conveyed frustration.
“Oh, you think I’m hot.” Ash grinned and Eiji just gave a noise that sounded alike a dying whale. It amused Ash. He was not letting Eiji live this down ever. Eiji exhaled a deep breath and tried to control his embarrassment. After a while he continued.
“And then I knew you even better. At first it was just trying to get an acquaintance to keep the loneliness away, and if he was going to be an interesting American who happened to be attractive, then so be it. But then you were different from anyone I met and not because you were a gang boss. You were kind, so kind to me. You’re brave and smart, and beautiful, not only from the outside, but also on the inside. You cared so much for me and no one ever has like you have,” Eiji bit his lip and stared at Ash with sincerity in his eyes. “When you stayed with me the day after we met my sister, when you tried to help me even though you didn’t need to, even though you had no idea what to do, I think…I think I realized I was more than just infatuated with you.” Eiji smiled.
“I...I didn’t expect you to say anything like that.” Ash ducked his head. “I mean I’m a gang boss. I’ve done a lot of terrible things. I’ve...killed people, Eiji. I’ve done…so many things I can’t even tell you yet—“
“And you’ll tell me when you’re ready, and if you’ll never be, then that’s fine too.” Eiji insisted. “In case you haven’t noticed, I’m really really into you at this point. It’s crazy.”
Ash stared at him really hard. “I still don’t get you sometimes. You are the strangest man I’ve ever met.”
Eiji laughed, just a little bit on the softer side. His face fond, but still a bit worried. “Is that a bad thing?” Still unsure, still self-conscious, still anxious.
This was familiar. But this time, Ash was sure of what he was going to say. He grinned wide. “No,” He reassured with all honesty. “Not at all. It’s not a bad thing.”
And Eiji beamed at him with the brightness of the sun. He leaned towards Ash to press a kiss to his cheek but froze midway.
“Okumura Eiji-sama, tomatte koudasai.” A man in suit and glassed appeared out of nowhere. A couple others came and surrounded them. They were probably up to ten or more. They had guns pointed towards them.
“Eiji stay back!” Ash put Eiji behind him by instinct, shielding him from any potential trouble. Again the man said something hostile to them in a foreign language, a little bit like Japanese, or perhaps they were Chinese? Ash was not so sure, his blood was pumping in his veins and the familiar roar of thunder crashed in his ears.
“Eiji, please.” Ash hissed as he glared at the men. He was horribly outnumbered, but he’ll be damned if they harm Eiji.
“Aslan Jade Callenrese listen to me!” Eiji yelled and Ash turned to him in surprise.
“All of you! Listen to me and stand down.” Eiji huffed, expression annoyed. That was enough to get Ash to stand his guard down. Eiji turned to the men and said something commanding in Japanese. The men stopped their hostility towards them.
“Eiji…I don’t understand?” Ash furrowed his brows. Eiji gave him a sheepish smile but didn’t really respond yet.
“It’s alright he’s with me and you’re all so early. I still have four months.” He sounded exasperated.
“Oh no, just think of this as payback for leaving without any warning. The last party was terrible by the way, thank you for that.”
A voice came from behind the men. A familiar voice. After hearing it, Eiji instantly groaned. “I can’t believe you came all the way to France just for this.”
The men parted to reveal a man with long hair braided to the side, dark malicious eyes staring at them and mouth twisted into a sharp smirk, faltering only until he saw what who was before him.
“You!” He pointed disdainfully at Ash.
“I should be saying that you bastard.” Ash retorted when the initial shock wore off.
“I should’ve known! This was what Blanca meant in his cryptic post card! I should’ve added two and two together!” He wailed.
“You know each other?” Eiji looked between the two of them.
The man screamed in frustration. “Eiji, I should be saying that. How on earth did you end up with this piece of shit? You have a lot of explaining to do. Actually both of you do.”
Ash groaned. He should be saying that.
“I share the sentiments. You also have a lot to tell me. Like what are you all doing here,” Eiji eyed the other men around them pointedly not listening to their conversation. “Don’t you? Yut-Lung?”
The Chinese sighed with the flair of drama he always seemed to possess. “Well then, why don’t we go somewhere nice and quiet for a chat?"