Eiji taps away at his phone, playing a rhythm game. He hits all the notes perfectly, but that does nothing to stave off the gnawing abyss inside him. These days, Eiji is always alone at home. Ash would leave early in the morning and come home late at night. Some nights, he wouldn't come home at all. It would be days before he showed up again. Eiji could feel the distance growing between him and Ash, and it was painful.
Eiji sets his phone aside and stands up from the couch. His resolve is resolute. Eiji decided that he'll make a really nice meal for Ash, and then they can eat together at the dining table. Food always solved problems in Eiji's own home in Japan. Whenever Eiji and his younger sister Nahoko got into a fight, whoever was in the wrong would whip up a sweet treat in the kitchen and give it to the other person as a token of apology. Several times, Nahoko and Eiji had ended up bring treats to each other at the same time. Food didn't just help heal cracks between the siblings; everyone in the Okumura family loved cooking and baking for each other, whether it was to make amends or to just enjoy a meal together, food was the glue of the family. Maybe someday, Eiji and Ash could cook together...
Eiji shakes his head and heads to the kitchen, refocusing his thoughts. He would make the best meal in the world for Ash, and then maybe, they could finally communicate properly.
Eiji puts on a blue frilly apron and gets ready to work. Before Eiji can get started, the door opens, and in steps Ash. He locks the door behind him and tosses his keys onto the coffee table before flopping onto the couch.
"Welcome home, Ash," Eiji says, turning around in the open plan kitchen to face Ash, who was facedown on the couch. Ash grunts in response, and Eiji frowns. Eiji walks over the couch and sits on the coffee table (since Ash was taking up the whole couch).
"I'm guessing you're tired?" Eiji says. Ash says nothing, and Eiji reaches over and starts to gently rub Ash's back. Ash groans, and sinks deeper into the couch for a moment before sitting up. Eiji sits on the couch next to Ash, massaging his back. Ash leans into the touch, his eyes closed.
"Do you want to talk about your day?" Eiji asks. Ash shakes his head.
"Tell me about your day," Ash says.
"I stayed home and waited for you," Eiji says, unable to prevent the bitterness from seeping into his voice.
"Why do you sound upset?" Ash asks, a hint of amusement in his voice.
"Well..." Eiji starts, taking a deep breath. Finally, Eiji is getting a chance to properly communicate with Ash! Eiji's voice is slow and tentative as he speaks. "I'm tired of staying home all the time—"
Ash snorts, cutting Eiji off. "What's there to be tired of?"
Eiji frowns at Ash's response. He hadn't expected Ash to say that. "I'm alone all day. Being isolated is not fun—"
"Just invite Bones and Kong over or something," Ash says nonchalantly. Eiji frown curls downward even further. He stops massaging Ash's back, making Ash turn around to face him.
"I don't appreciate your dismissiveness, Ash," Eiji says, his eyebrows scrunched together. Ash starts to frown, too.
"You're safe up here, Eiji. You're bored, so what? Just clean or go on your phone or make a meal for me like you always do."
Eiji crosses his arms, frustration starting to seep into his voice. "Doing the same things all the time is repetitive. And you're rarely ever home. Am I supposed to make you three meals everyday even when I don't know for sure that you're coming home? That's a waste of food. Cooking and cleaning is tiring. I don't like doing it all the time. And none of it makes up for being isolated at home all day."
"Oh, boohoo, you're bored and making food and dusting the apartment a little bit makes you tired," Ash mocks, leaning back into the sofa with his arms crossed. "Cooking and cleaning isn't hard. If being here bothers you so much, why don't you just go back to Japan?"
Eiji sits there, shocked for a moment, unable to speak. Was Ash really being serious right now? Eiji can feel the negative emotions churning in his gut as he sputters. "I stay by your side because I love you. I can't believe you'd tell me to go back to Japan after everything we've been through!"
Ash stares at Eiji for a moment, guilt flashing across his face for a moment before quickly being replaced by anger. Eiji deflates, his voice low and broken as he speaks. "Sometimes I wonder if my presence even matters to you."
"You know what Eiji? You don't matter to me," Ash snaps, making Eiji flinch. His body leans slightly forward as he speaks, his words sharp and poisonous. "I'm busy trying to keep the fucking mafia off my back! I don't need this bullshit from you! You have it easy. All you have to do it stay home and cook and take a few pictures for me. Is that really so hard?!"
Eiji opens his mouth to speak, but is unable to get a word in. Ash was on a roll now, the words rushing out of his mouth like he was spitting fire.
"You think I like having you as a weakness?!" Ash yells. Eiji sits there, unable to move or speak or breathe as Ash keeps cutting him with his words. "I don't need you, Eiji! You're easily replaceable, and I never asked you to stay by my side, so why don't you just fuck off?!"
The look on Eiji's face instantly makes Ash regret his words. Eiji's face was a mixture of shock and anger, and Ash could see the tears building up in Eiji's eyes, making his brown irises look glossy as he held them in. He stands up and his voice wavers as he speaks. Eiji closes his eyes and the two tears slip down his cheeks.
"Fine. If I am such an inconvenience to you, then I will leave."
Ash sits up his seat, his jade eyes wide. "Wait, Eiji, it's not safe."
This time, it's Eiji who snaps at Ash, the steadiness in his voice surprising Eiji himself. And, for the first time in Ash's life, he hears Eiji swear. "You said I am your weakness, that you do not like having me around! And now you pretend to care about me? Fuck you, Ash. I'm leaving."
Eiji turns around and starts walking towards the door. Ash quickly stands up and stumbles over the coffee table as he rushes to catch up to Eiji. Ash grabs Eiji's arm and Eiji swiftly shakes him off.
"Don't touch me!" Eiji snarls. Ash stands there, mouth agape. Eiji swallows, his anger starting to melt away, revealing something softer and more delicate and broken.
"I just want you to know that I've always considered you to be my strength, my better half. And I've never thought of you as an inconvenience or a weakness, no matter how much being around you puts me danger," Eiji whispers, his voice cracking and wavering. He can feel his face scrunch up as the tears start to flow more freely, and his next words come out as a sob. "I still love you no matter what. It kills me to know that you don't..."
Eiji cries hard, unable to finish his sentence. Eiji turns around and runs out the door, his soft wails echoing through the hallway, even after he covers his mouth with both hands to stifle them. Ash stands by the door, his whole body still. All the air rushes out of his lungs, and for a second, Ash can feel his heart die as he stares at the spot where Eiji just was, the empty doorway reminiscent of Ash's chest.