“Madame Okumura.” Ash tried his best to sound just as respectful. He imitated the bows of the servants. He’s seen Eiji do it a couple of times. He’s pretty confident he could do it properly this time. He shouldn’t be afraid, heck he shouldn’t even be nervous. He’s faced things more dangerous than strict wealthy elder women. Still he worried anyway.
When Ash had stood up, the woman gave him an unimpressed look. Yut-Lung honest to god sniggered and Eiji…was trying hard not to laugh.
“Ash—“ He broke off, giggles escaping his tightly closed mouth. “That’s not my grandmother, or any direct relative.” Eiji bit his lips to stop laughing. His shoulders still shook anyway. Ash snapped ramrod straight, eyes widening and face turning red in the face. The servants around them, who apparently were a selective bunch of foreign people, looked like they were trying hard not to laugh as well.
“Ash this is the head of our servants, Mizuguchi-san. She practically raised me and my sister.” He turned back to the woman and spoke in Japanese once more, probably introducing him to her.
The woman said something sharp and suspiciously incriminating in Japanese. Eiji laughed again at this, delighted. Mirth danced in Eiji’s eyes, lips stretched in amusement. He looked so happy. So in a way, Ash felt happy too, by some extension even though his happiness mostly stemmed from his own expense, as it often was.
“She said, you are going to get yourself killed if you do that in front of my grandmother.” He helpfully translated. Ash’s face burned some more.
“Eiji-sama never brought guests before,” She started to talk in English.
“It’s not like I’m allowed to bring guests.” Eiji sighed also in English, for Ash’s sake. “Or have any guests to invite. And Yut-Lung has been here before.” The said Chinese looked bored as usual. Ash nearly forgot he was there.
“I assume we won’t have to prepare a room for him?” Mizuguchi-san’s faint smile was entertained when she glanced over Ash.
At this Eiji blushed he glanced at Ash and did not deign that with an answer. Mizuguchi-san knowing look and the implication of it made Ash’s face redder than before as well.
“God can both of you not right now?” Yut-Lung scoffed, eyeing both of them impatiently. “You know what? Whatever I have some business to attend to anyway.”
“Should I prepare a room for him as well?”
“Don’t bother. I’d rather not stay overnight in any building with these two. Seeing the Lynx so tame is giving me the hives. Okumura’s besotted face isn’t any better either.” He shot them an appalled look, something like a sneer of repulsion and distress. “Don’t choke on your tea, old grandma.” With that, he turned on his heel and exited the room all while the two Japanese shared a knowing look and a snicker. Ever the drama queen.
“I will have a room prepared for your guest regardless. It is better that way.” The way she said guest was pretty certain that she meant more to it than it was at face value. Ash could read between the lines. He did not know if her amusement extended to approval, or if she was unaccepting of it and was simply too polite to comment on it. Ash did not want to know. “Leave his belongings there.”
“For my grandma. So she doesn’t become too scandalized.” Eiji whispered to him conspiratorially. “And the servants gossip. Not that we could do anything about that.” Ash snickered at this.
When they arrived at the door of some grand room, the woman bowed and let them on their own devices. “Rest Eiji-sama. We will send for you when breakfast is ready.” Breakfast?
Ash looked at the time. It was four in the morning and it was nearly dawn. Had it been that long?
Before the woman could leave though, Eiji asked. “Will my grandmother be joining us?”
“Your grandmother is still off in a business trip in Yorkshire, some kind of curtesy call. She will be back in a day or two.” With that she finally left them.
Eiji visibly relaxed at her reply, at the same time he clenched his hands. Eiji turned to him and smiled a crumby tight-lipped thing that did nothing to mask his nervousness. But it was fine, the confrontation would not happen in another two days. Eiji opened the door to the room.
Ash glanced over the overly extravagant chamber, spacious and minimal. It matched the rest of the house in décor and atmosphere. A large king sized bed was in the middle of the room, a neat bedside desk on the side. It was clean, bare, spacious, arranged. It was nearly alike the hotel rooms and apartments they’ve hopped across the continents and yet very different as well.
This lacked the scent of being lived in. It was detached, unlike all the other rooms Ash had ever habituated. This was nothing like the dingy rooms of the New York apartments they called their headquarters, nor was it anything like musty Cape Cod with saltiness in the air that only seaside towns only ever managed to do. It wasn’t like brothel rooms that smelled too much like sex and cheap alcohol to be comfortable. It didn’t even have the comforting smell of a new hotel room or rented apartment Ash had grown to like over the months.
This had nothing.
Impersonal. That was the word. The entire room was distant in a way hotel rooms never were for them. Like a common backdrop, something Ash wouldn’t have remembered by himself if he tried.
“Alright so far?” Ash sat next to him. Eiji smiled. One of his tells, Ash noticed over the months, was that he smiled too much when he was nervous, he laughed a lot too, as if that would be enough to conceal what he truly felt. He was not fooled.
“I should be asking you that.” Again, he was avoiding the topic. Ash decided he will not push for now. He shrugged.
“It’s great I think. A bath would be great though.”
And he supposed that was the right thing to say because Eiji immediately perked up at that.
The bath was actually big. Too big to be used for a single person.
“That’s because it’s not meant for one.” Eiji sighed, a soft moan escaped his lips as he dipped further into the hot water. He rested his head on the edge and placed a damp cloth on his forehead. “I missed this so much.” His face bled into absolute bliss, some familiarity upon the motions and the sensations, remembrance and memories flited through the curves of his expression.
Ash followed suit. He had to admit it was relaxing. The heat soothed the tension in his muscles. The bath was big and spacious enough to not have to be near each other, and yet Ash still found himself nearly pressed against Eiji’s bare skin, just a few inches away from each other. He could feel Eiji’s warmth and it branded on his skin. He was too conscious of their proximity.
A bottle of sake brought by a servant just awhile ago was shared between them. Eiji seemed to be drinking a lot of alcohol ever since getting drunk in France. It was almost like the flood gates opened up for him. Ash told him this.
“As Yut-Lung once said, and I quote ‘alcohol is your lubricant as life fucks you up your ass’. I didn’t get it then. I’m starting to now.” Eiji peeked out from the towel covering half his face, a pair of doe eyes stared at him.
Ash snickered. “He really said that?” He took the cup of sake to his lips and sipped tentatively. “He’s such a bad influence.” The clear liquid tasted bitter as slid down his tongue, the taste foreign and new.
“As if you aren’t as well.” Eiji snorted.
Ash let out a puff of laughter. “I’m the damn best influence in your life.”
“You wish.” Eiji stuck out his tongue, petulant as he ever was.
But then he turned somber and he poured himself a drink, and then he refilled Ash’s cup as well. “Tell me how you got acquainted.”
“It’s…it’s not really a fun story.”
“Tell me anyway.” His voice was pleading, demanding, begging, commanding. “Tell me everything.”
Ash didn’t want to dampen the mood, but when could he ever deny Eiji of his requests? He’s long accepted defeat in that department. He drained the contents of his cup in one gulp. “We crossed paths in L.A. He deceived us into thinking he was innocent. He was a spy. He kidnapped my friend, Skip and blackmailed Shorter into helping him. He’s my other friend. They’re…they’re gone now.” Partly because of him. Came unsaid. He knew Eiji said everything, but he couldn’t, not right now.
Eiji nodded thoughtfully. His cup danced on his fingers, the clear liquid swirling as he stared at it with contemplation.
“He’s been through a lot. Knowing him, he’s rather die than tell me about all of it. But there were some that slipped from his tongue when he was nearly black out drunk.” Eiji said solemnly. He drank his cup of sake and shuddered. He set the cup on the side.
“Tell me about you and him then.” Ash hoped bitterness did not slide of his mouth when he said this, he hoped it sounded more curious than scornful. He may be Eiji’s friend, but Yut-Lung still left Ash in a bad mood.
“Our relationship is complicated. We’re not exactly friends but we seek each other’s company whenever we’re in the same event by chance. It’s been like that since we were children.” Eiji confessed.
“I couldn’t ever imagine him as a kid. He’s always looked cruel when I picture him in my head.” Ash poured himself more sake. The image of the Chinese’s haughty sneer entered his mind, his lips always twisted into a cruel smirk, eyes that nearly look like black, more purple than blue. The image of Yut-Lung in Ash’s mind had always been terrifyingly malevolent.
“Mhm. We didn’t get a long at first. He hated me.” Eiji pushed his hair back, wet bangs away from falling on his eyes.
Ash knew. He heard it from the man himself. He can’t help his sarcastic remark though. “What? You? No way.”
“Shut up.” Eiji splashed him some hot water while Ash laughed at his petulant reaction. “Anyway I saw him first when I was eight, he was five then. I thought he was a girl. I told him he looked very pretty and that I didn’t know the Lee’s had a daughter.”
That was a surprise.
“You what?” Ash nearly spat out his sake.
“Yeah, he kicked me in the shin and nearly strangled me when the adults weren’t looking a minute later. I was immediately amazed.” Eiji laughed when he recalled. He covered his face again with the wet cloth out of embarrassment, both red from it and the heat. “I think it was because he was the first person I met in the elite circle that was genuine in their reactions. Children are forced into politics early you see. Parents expect us to do so.” He shared. Ash understood this. Ash had been through it as well.
“If we’re actually talking about the same person then he’s actually going to try to be on your good side.”
“No. He didn’t care, at least at that time. He didn’t start praising me just because I was named Okumura, in fact I think that was more reason for him to dislike me. It was new for someone like me. So we’ve been seeing each other in the different events we were forced into, if only to exchange a snide remark or two.” Eiji’s face was serious, his gaze was still in a distant memory. Fond, he was fond with his recollection as well. “Well, fast forward ten years and there he was, vomiting his guts out while he was drunk off his mind, hugging the porcelain bowl of some hotel bathroom and me awkwardly holding his long tresses. He was yelling his entire backstory, angrily. Midway he started blubbering in Chinese and I no longer have any idea what he was saying. I got the basics though.”
The picture looked wrong. Yut-Lung was hardly seen in anything other than in prim and proper, exception to certain times that Ash had a hand on. “That must have been a lot to deal with.”
Eiji nodded. “It was. He woke up in my house the next day with a terrible hangover, threatening bodily harm while looking like death. We were in better terms ever since.”
“You attract the weirdest friends in the weirdest ways.”
Eiji said nothing to this, but his expression looked like he definitely agreed. “If you’d rather you don’t see him in our stay here, I’ll try to keep you two from meeting again.”
“I’d actually like that.” Ash admitted. “But you being alone with him worries me.”
“There’s nothing to worry about Ash.” Eiji insisted.
There was nothing else but the sound of water pouring from some source, the sound of rippling water. It was soothing in a way, it added to the whole ambiance of relaxation as well. Softly, Ash gave admitted his own confession.
“I can’t help it. I don’t want to lose you too.” His voice was just loud enough to be heard of the rushing water. He tried to bleed sincerity into the statement.
“You won’t. The only way for you to get rid of me is when you walk away and leave me.” Eiji sighed, and he moved closer to Ash. Ash leaned his head on Eiji shoulder as if on instinct. As if he’d leave Eiji willingly. He’s never felt so at peace, so at home, so relaxed. It was an impossible feeling he never thought he’d ever experience. Halcyon. That was what this was. No other experience could ever compare.
If you know what’s good for you and for him I suggest you stay away from him.
No. He’d never leave Eiji, not when he finally felt like he belonged. And he wanted to be selfish, surely he deserved to have this, after all he’s gone through, after everything life had taken away from him, surely this was no sin, surely, surely he could take this for once in his life?
Eiji carded his fingers through Ash’s wet hair, massaging his scalp. The sensation was pleasing, the rhythmic movements of those fingers made Ash shut his eyes. A soft sound of pleasure escaped his lips.
They were silent, both in contemplation and in reverie. The sound of the water and the ripples drowned out the gloom of the room and left nothing but stillness and calm.
“We never really did talk about it.” Eiji’s voice broke through the tranquil. His fingers did not cease their ministrations.
Ash was reluctant in cracking one eye open. He felt too boneless to do more. “About what?” His voice was nearly breathless.
Eiji’s voice was ruinously reverent. His fingers slid from Ash’s golden hair and slid to his cheek. Ash mourned the loss. “What we are to each other.”
A beat, a drop of water. A flutter of eyelashes blinking open with sudden clarity.
“What do you want us to be?” Ash’s eyes drifted away from Eiji’s face. “I can be whatever you want.” He suddenly couldn’t look at him in the eye. The words sounded weak even to his ears, they sounded too scripted. He was filled with a sudden want to bite it off his tongue before it could leave his mouth.
Eiji did not look happy with this statement. It made Ash’s desire stronger. “No, I want you to stay you,” His hands slid from his cheek. “Whatever you are,” on to his neck. “Whatever you will be,” Then down to his shoulders. “Whatever you are in the past, Ash,” Eiji wished the words to his ears. “I want it all.”
Ash buried his face deeper into the crook of Eiji’s neck. “Then be the same. I want the same.” His voice was muffled as he whispered his request unto Eiji’s slightly tanned skin. He prayed that in doing so, he’d imbed some certainty of it coming true.
“Let’s take it slow.” And Ash might’ve nodded, he didn’t know. They didn’t need labels, not for now. If this was what Eiji need, then this was what he would give. He could only thank whatever being there was that it matched what Ash wanted as well. They stayed there in comfortable silence.
Until Eiji started to fidget in his place.
“What’s the matter?” Ash pulled away just slightly to be able to see Eiji’s face. He refused to look at Ash, face rosy from the heat, from the alcohol and something else.
“Ah, I think I would very much like to kiss you again.” Shy, hesitant, always asking permission.
Ash’s eyes softened. “You don’t need to ask.”
“No,” Eiji shook his head, still refusing to look at him, did not dare to look at him. “I should. What you feel is important too.”
And he can’t just say things like that with such an earnest expression. It was unfair, how terrifyingly honest he said this, how terrifyingly sincere his words were, how much he seemed to care for him. That feeling, the feeling of someone caring for him was such a fragile thing. It was like holding a flightless bird in the hand, some living thing that’s easily crushed. A tiny heartbeat that’s breathing and alive in the grasp of Ash’s roughened and brutish hands. The feeling of having someone to care for you was frightening.
“Eiji…” Ash whispered with awe, with fear, with admiration. And Eiji moved even closer until their bare chests were nearly touching, eyes full of feeling, and he kissed him chastely on the lips, just a short peck. That peck, no matter how short, left his lips all tingly, filled him with electricity.
Ash had plenty of kisses, kisses that were deeper, that were more skilled, that were more carnal and desperate. And yet all of them paled in comparison.
“Eiji…” Ash repeated and his chest was so full, he was sure it was bursting at the seams. He leveled Eiji with a look that asked him to trust Ash.
“Aslan.” Eiji understood, his eyes shone perfectly with them. So Ash held Eiji’s face with all the tenderness his rough, calloused hands ever could muster, and he kissed him again, this time deeper.
It started slow, careless until it became more skilled. He parted his lips and learned all there was to learn in Eiji’s warm mouth.
The kiss had been playful, sensual, flirty. It was different from their kiss in France, which was frantic and desperate and just filled with passionate energy from accumulated feelings crashing against each other, it wasn’t like their first kiss which was quick and detached. This time, he set the pace, kept it steadier, more enjoyable.
Ash tried to coax out all the pleasured noises he could from Eiji and the Japanese had been receiving it so well. He was sure he was way past pleasing people, but he could make an exception for this one, as he always did for Eiji. He could taste the sake in Eiji’s mouth. His own mouth probably tasted the same. The rice wine had been bitter, and yet when Ash drank it from Eiji’s lips, it was somehow sweet.
Eiji let out a soft moan and he swallowed the very sound of it. It shot warmth through Ash’s body.
In his opinion and the opinion of so many others he’d rather not remember the faces of, he was good in the business of sex and pleasure making. He’s had enough years of experience to do so, specifically trained from childhood just to be so. And though he’s been through a lot to never want to put these skills into use again, he never thought he’d actually come to like them at some point in his life. And god was Ash relishing it right now.
“A-ash!” Eiji gasped, finally pulling away breathless and red in the cheeks. He had this dazed look in his face, pupils blown wide, they’re so black like…like…like onyx or coals, and lips swollen red, chest heaving to catch his breath. Ash would be lying if he’d say that the sight of Eiji looking so utterly debauched with just a simple kiss from Ash did not satisfy some hungry part inside of him. So scandalous. He wondered what he’d say if he saw himself in a mirror.
Ash grinned, he can’t help but tease. “You know, I have been told I’m a really good kisser. Care to tell me if they were right?” He batted his blond lashes and gave a smoldering gaze just to seal the deal. He was going back to old habits, albeit perhaps with more enthusiasm this time. It was fun to see Eiji squirm.
Speaking of, Eiji spluttered, face turning redder than it already was.
“I-I-I need to—” Eiji trailed away. “I—the bath’s getting too hot.” He got up from the water and hastily wrapped himself in a towel. “I’m going for a shower. If you’re done you can follow me outside I mean, it won’t do to just be idle here. There’s an entire house I need to show you. Anyway I need a cold shower, bye.” He rambled as he nearly ran out of the bath with how fast he walked, leaving a confused Ash in his wake.
Ash took a few seconds just staring at the door where Eiji had just gone out.
What the fuck was that about?
They didn’t really talk about it.
Ash might’ve had a faint idea of what happened. But he’d rather not pry. Deep down, he was afraid he might’ve done something wrong. He might’ve pushed too much or did something Eiji wasn’t ready yet. He wasn’t really experienced with these sort of things after all and it could be overwhelming. And the last thing Ash wanted was to make Eiji uncomfortable. He’s gone through all of that after all, it would be unforgivable to subject him to that kind of cruelty.
A voice deep in his head was gnawing his insides, telling him that he’d always managed to ruin things, that he’d probably end up hurting Eiji in the end. (The voice suspiciously sounded like Yut-Lung.) Ash drowned that voice away.
Currently they were having breakfast in this ridiculously long table. Servants waited in a perfect line by the wall and Eiji was seated far across the room, frowning at his plate as if it personally offended him because of its existence. He looked up to meet Ash’s eyes. There was a pause, and then he laughed. He said something, but Ash wasn’t able to get it the first time.
“What?” Ash yelled.
Eiji rolled his eyes. “I said, this is ridiculous.” He yelled back. And then, after a moment of hesitation, Eiji picked up his plate and utensils to move to the seat next to Ash. The servants hurriedly assisted his relocation although it was clear that they were reluctant to break the arrangement. Ash could see a few people murmuring in the back.
Faintly, Ash felt a surge of relief wash over his body at the thought that there wasn’t any tension between them despite what happened earlier.
“I’m going to guess that you’ve never done this before?” He eyed the servants who retreated back to their stations after they’ve finished their duties. Were they really going to eat with an audience?
“Never had anyone to do it with.” Eiji snorted. At this some servants looked even more alarmed. More nervous than scandalized though, Ash observed with amusement. “My grandmother isn’t here so that’s an added bonus.” He added in a whisper.
“How rebellious.” Ash chuckled.
“Oh shut up.” Eiji shoved Ash just as some of the other servants started setting the dishes on the table. There were worried eyes darting at them. Eiji did not heed them any mind.
He put his hands together and murmured. “Itadakimasu.”
“What does that mean?” Ash asked. “The one you just said. You always say that before we eat.”
Eiji looked up, chopsticks on hand. “What? Oh, it’s been months and you only cared to ask about it now?” He was amused.
Ash shrugged. “Seems fitting to ask now.”
Eiji repeated it, slowly. “Itadakimasu. It’s something we say in thanks for the food.” He explained it haltingly.
“Itadakmas?” Ash tested it in his tongue. It was foreign, unfamiliar, much like the taste of sake on his mouth earlier.
“No. I-ta-da-ki-ma-su.” Eiji elucidated it even slower, like he was talking to a child. How the tables had turned.
“Itadakimasu?“ Ash tried again.
Eiji grinned, satisfied. “Yes! Now clap your hands together while you say it.” He demonstrated.
“Itadakimasu.” Ash followed as per instruction.
“Now you’re getting it!” Eiji’s grin widen into a beam, too dazzling to be legal at this early in the moring. Good thing time did not exactly apply properly at the moment.
Ash huffed. “I’m hungry. Let’s eat.” He picked up his chopsticks from the table and then stared at the unfamiliar food served. “What’s this?” They were all Japanese dishes. Ash shouldn’t have been surprised.
“Dried horse mackerel and boiled spinach.” Eiji pointed at some of the other stuff, too enthusiastic for food. “There’s rice and miso soup too. God I missed rice a lot.”
Well, maybe Eiji did miss a little bit of home. Ash took a bowl of something weird looking. He looked at Eiji in question.
“That’s natto. Try it. It’s good.” Eiji might’ve mentioned it before. It was his favorite food wasn’t it? The fermented soy beans.
Ash frowned at it with suspicion. It did not exactly scream appetizing. “It…it stinks. It’s rotten.”
If you look closer, you could see some of the servant flinch at his audacity. Ash figured none of the staff liked natto either. They simply were paid enough to not say anything about it.
“No, that’s just how it is.” Eiji paid them no mind still.
“How do you eat it?” Right, maybe he was jumping the gun here too quickly.
“Add mustard, soy sauce and green onions. Mix it till it’s all sticky. Now pour it on the rice and dig in.” Eiji let out a pleased sound. “Delicious.”
Ash tried to follow what Eiji told him to do. It did not look any appealing even after all that. He gave it one more look before taking a bite.
He regretted everything.
Ash whimpered. “I think I’m going to throw up.” He clamped a hand on his mouth. He may be some stupid American, but by god he had some table manners. He forced himself to swallow down the mouthful of natto and successfully managed to do so without gagging. “Do Japanese only eat stinky food?” He said with disdain.
“Hey it’s healthy for growing boys like you.” Eiji wrinkled his nose at Ash’s unenthusiastic reaction. “Come on. If you get used to a traditional Japanese breakfast, maybe we can go to Japan next time. I’ll even show you my hometown.”
Ash barely managed to respond. The taste lingered on his tongue and he suppressed a shudder. “Where is your hometown?”
Eiji’s expression was wistful, distant, reminiscent. “It’s in Izumo City in Shimane. It’s the land of the gods.”
Another unfamiliar word. “Gizumo?”
“No, Izumo.” Eiji laughed. ”I think you’d like it there.” And the way he said his homeland was filled with such fondness that Ash never could manage for his own. He wanted to see where this amazing man was born, how it made him, what place could he possibly come from.
“Maybe. Who knows?” And yet his tone did not match his words for Ash was quite certain he would like as it was the place Eiji had grown up, and anything that was tied to Eiji was something he was sure to cherish.
“But for now you’d have to learn to love Japanese food so eat up your natto.”
Well, not all.
“Dear god.” He would be sick before he could finish the natto.
Eiji puffed his cheeks. “If you eat it all up, I think I’ll show you a surprise.”
Ash perked up. “A surprise? Will I like it?”
Eiji had mischief in his eyes, a knowing look and a face that screamed trouble, giddy and excited like a child. “So you know that scene in Beauty and the Beast…?”
There was a lot of books.
And on a regular day, Ash would’ve gushed over all of them. These were limited editions and rare books of antiquity, the collection quite impressive that Ash’s younger self would’ve easily done something illegal to get his hands on them.
But not right now.
Right now exhaustion managed to caught up to them, and so he was lying in the library’s couch instead of reading the books available, head rested on the armrest and feet tangled with Eiji’s who sat next to him. He hadn’t slept a wink since last night, unlike Eiji who managed to nap in the plane.
“Don’t you think we should go back to the room?” Eiji proposed with a soft yawn. The early rays of the sun washed the room as it crept in through the window, painting the walls with grey and hues of yellow, like silvers and golds. It did not help the drowsiness Ash felt.
“I think,” Ash yawned as well. They really were contagious. “That I like it here.” And Eiji laughed a soft breathy chuckle.
“It’s because of the books isn’t it?” His backdrop was the brightness of the morning so the light made a halo on his hair, a lovely silhouette against sunlight. Ash needed to squint in order to see him.
“Of course it is.” Ash grumbled unabashedly. There’s always something comforting with books. “But I’m also really comfortable here. You’re really warm,” He poked Eiji’s chest with his socked feet. “And soft.”
“I’m not soft.” Eiji pushed the foot away.
“You are.” Ash poked it again with his big toe.
“Stop.” Eiji whined.
Ash crawled towards Eiji’s chest so that he was lying directly on top of him. The Japanese gave a spluttering protest, one Ash ignored. “You’re soft enough for me to sleep on comfortably.” Ash pressed his palms on Eiji’s chest and froze. He pressed and prodded on them again. There was softness in it, yes. But there’s firmness underneath it that could only come from the body of a former athlete.
“Oh. It’s hard.” He mused out loud, not even caring that he actually admitted his mistake. He shifted his position, sudden interest washing him. He shouldn’t be too surprised. They’ve seen each other naked for goodness sake. They just took a bath together not hours ago.
“Ash.” Eiji grumbled. “Stop that, and stop squirming.”
“Kinda hard with this cramped sofa.” Ash’s hands trailed from Eiji’s chest to his gut, and then his navel, extremely fascinated with his exploration.
“Ash.” Eiji leveled him with a warning gaze. “If you could just be kind enough to get off me right now.” Eiji groaned.
“Getting old are we, grandpa?” Ash rested his chin on the plane of his chest, a smug smirk, mischievous eyes.
“Haven’t heard that in awhile.” A breathy laugh, nearly like a wheeze. “But seriously get off me or we’re really going to have a problem.” He attempted to push Ash off his lap.
“No, I don’t think I will.” Ash wrapped his legs tighter on Eiji’s, hand gripping his shoulders as he goaded him some more, baiting him. His mouth had the biggest shit eating grin on his face.
“Why are you being difficult?” Eiji shifted his position.
“Why are you suddenly so sensitive?” Ash shot back, batting his lashes at him in the most infuriating way. And then Eiji leveled him with that look again.
“You,” He groaned again. And now Ash wondered if his weight was starting to really bother him. “Are a cruel man. You’re really are going to regret this.” He made a guttural sound from the back of his throat that was between a whimper and a growl.
There was something about his current position that was slightly uncomfortable. It felt like something hard prodded on his body. Maybe relocating to the bedroom isn’t so bad an idea after all. Ash wiggled a bit into a different position. Maybe if he shifted his weight, Eiji wouldn’t be too troubled.
Eiji moaned, face red and flushing. He immediately clasped a hand on his mouth, embarrassed. Not long after, he flinched.
“I told you…you’re going to regret it.” Eiji didn’t dare look at Ash and his voice was muffled by the hand that covered his mouth. His breathing was heavy, labored.
He couldn’t even finish that train of thought.
Ash audibly gulped. Awkward silence befell them, thick and suffocating. Ash glanced at the rather obvious problem pressed between them, face starting to flush as well. He figured it wasn’t healthy to have his blood rushing this fast all the time. There was something fluttering in Ash’s stomach, something hot and fluttering and heavy and cold at the same time. His mouth dry, his hands shaking, his heart beating wild in his chest.
He didn’t know what to feel, what to do. He was frozen in place, shocked. Pleasure, anticipation, dread, anxiety, desire, want, worry, need, everything was muddled in his brain. It was loud and eerily silent in his head, blank and buzzing at the same time.
Eiji sternly said, interrupting the spiraling of his thoughts.
Ash gasped, blinking away the haziness from his eyes. Eiji’s hand was gripping his wrist, his eyes upset and admonishing.
“Don’t.” He said again, softer, a tone that’s so vulnerable.
Fuck, he’d gone entirely on muscle memory hadn’t he? He was so used with being used that his first reaction was to go numb and act on command, force of habit. He was falling back. “I can—“
“Not when you don’t want to.” Eiji interrupted again, like he knew what Ash was going to say.
“I—I—I…” Did he not want to? What did he want? What did he want? Panic clawed at his chest. But he wanted to, partly, in some way. The heat in his face, the throbbing in his body, he could feel it. But there was dread in his gut too, something apprehensive, something hesitant, something afraid. He did not know what he want and he did not like not knowing, he did not want to be out of control. Especially with his own body.
“It’s okay.” Eiji whispered, and this time he did look at Ash. His face was gentle, understanding, kind. Oh so kind. “It’s okay. If you don’t want it. You don’t have to do anything.” He loosened his grip on his wrist.
“No.” Eiji hushed him. “I can hear you, you know,” he began. “When you sleep, you talk a lot when you’re dreaming. It hurts me.” He was so reverent with his words, wrapped with a thin veil of tenderness. “I tried not to pry when we weren’t this familiar with each other. I pretend to sleep while you’re plagued by nightmares and you wake up to go to the bathroom. I hated it,” His lips twisted down. “I hated how I can’t help you and I know how you are uncomfortable with this. I’m sorry.”
“Eiji…” But Ash couldn’t formulate sentences. He couldn’t summon the words to be coherent enough. Fuck it, he didn’t even know what to say. His mind was drawing a blank.
“Shh,” Eiji reassured once again. “It’s okay. Now please let me out.”
Wordlessly, Ash moved aside and Eiji shot him a faint smile. “Thank you.”
And Eiji left without saying anything, leaving Ash dumbfounded. Now he did not know what else to do. He tried not to think about what Eiji was going to do—was doing right now. He tried not to think about how he’d look while doing so, how his body would react.
Ash, not for the first time although the first in a really long time, buried his face on the couch’s throw pillow to muffle his scream.
They’ve been doing this a lot lately. The whole sweeping under the rug thing.
It was now three in the afternoon and both of them were in bed. In theory they should be sleeping especially with Ash not getting any sleep at all. Yet he was here, wide awake, mind racing. And with how loud Eiji was breathing, Ash thought he might be as well.
A gap existed between them, Eiji too afraid to touch him, and Ash not brave enough to reach out. Their backs turned to each other, and Ash’s heartbeat was too loud. So loud it drummed in his ears. Truth be told the sleeplessness was because he was afraid.
He was afraid that he messed up.
He was afraid that Eiji might be mad.
Ash peeked at Eiji’s figure. He was unmoving, unnervingly still, but his breathing was too quick to for him to be asleep. Ash knew he was not asleep, he’d spent too long in the presence of his sleeping being that he’s memorize the beat of the rise and the fall of his chest to know if he was simply pretending. And yet he still couldn’t even get himself to address the elephant in the room.
They haven’t been this awkward since they met. Ash didn’t know what to do.
More silence came.
Ash shuffled in his side of the bed. Approximately ten inches separated them, and yet it felt like miles. Like walking on eggshells, like walking on fault lines, on unstable bridges hanging with only ancient ropes supporting it, walking on the edge of a building, a fine precipice.
Can you believe a great wall divided the city here once? It really just shows how no walls can divide humankind and that they will overcome any kind of oppression one way or another.
Eiji’s words rang again in his ears. They were in Berlin then, in Brandenburg gate where a wall once divided not only the city, not only the country, but the entire continent as well, by extension, the entire world.
Can you imagine being in the same city but feel like you are countries apart?
Those were Eiji’s words as well. But it was fitting in this case. They were in the same bed, and yet…
Eiji enjoyed the kuchen in Berlin then. Eiji pressed a piece to his mouth when Ash became particularly stubborn about trying some. The familiarity then was nowhere to be found now.
Ash groaned. He can’t take this anymore.
“Okumura get your ass off the bed! It’s ass o’clock and you’re still sleeping? We have a lot to do—oh goddamnit you’re still here?!” This was exactly when the fucking snake decided to barge in. Who just barges inside people’s rooms anyway?
“Yut-Lung, what are you doing here? We’re trying to sleep.” Eiji grumbled, running a hand through his bed hair and rubbed it to his face. Eiji was conveniently wearing plain pajamas. Ash on the other hand was simply in his regular clothes, not trusting himself to be in his boxers to sleep. A funny sight to see in the afternoon.
“Get up, seriously. We have a lot to do. You were supposed to sleep this morning. What have you been doing?” Yut-Lung was starting to pull the comfort of the blanket from Eiji’s grasp, who only gave him a displeased side eye.
“Ugh fuck off.” Ash threw the nearest thing he could grab from the bedside table. Apparently it was some kind of a paperweight. A really heavy paperweight. Yut-Lung caught it before it hit his face.
He tutted, unimpressed. “How violent.”
“You dragged me all the way here and now you want me to do something else?” Eiji sniped, still disgruntled.
“Of course kitten, your grandmother tasked me to prepare your birthday party, and you’re going to be with me in every step of the way.” The way Yut-Lung said this was in such a mocking tone that Ash’s every fiber wanted to punch the lights out of him. At least he wasn’t alone with the notion. Eiji laid back and buried himself in the pillows.
“Ash’s right. Fuck off.”
And Ash barked up a laugh at that. Eiji shot him a lazy grin half hidden on the pillows. The sight seemed to quash some worry in Ash’s chest.
“Well too bad for you. We have company.” Yut-Lung sounded smug. He stood there examining his nails.
A familiar voice called out from the door.
Eiji groaned more. Ash narrowed his eyes at the newcomer, suddenly self-conscious.
“You idiots better worked it out. Both of you are a train wreck. Hurts to watch.”
There by the doorway was a little girl of only eleven yet had the attitude of a teen in adolescence.
“Of course my grandmother will send her here.” Eiji didn’t even bother getting up at this point, didn’t bother greeting her. “Kimiko, Yut-Lung, go bother someone else please. We’re trying to sleep.”
“You know by now it is useless Oni-san. Oba-san’s orders are law.”
Silence. Ash wanted to shoo them away. It would’ve been easier if it was only the Chinese around. A gun would’ve been efficient, or a little bit of strangling would been enough. But with Kimiko here…
Eiji said nothing. And then:
“Fine.” He said reluctantly, finally getting up from the bed. “Let’s get it over with.”