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→ Sebastian Ford

                                Sebastian blinked in bewilderment as he stood in the kitchen clutching the water bottle, watching Ash's figure stalk down the hallway and disappear. He seemed to have an aura of sudden indignation floating around him that Sebastian could only assume was from the hangover they were both suffering though. He couldn't help but feel like it was his own fault though. And of course he was going to take a shower but he doubted he had any time for that before Camilla got here and it would piss her off even more if he wasn't able to answer the door to let her in.

                                And just that moment, there was that undeniable rapping on the front door and as soon as he let her inside the house, he was met with the barrage of accusations and questions he might as well have been used to by now, except this time she had actually been prompted with evidence for such accusations.

                                He cleared his throat and watched Kayley disappear into the living room before even answering Camilla. "Sorry," was all he could say at first. Of course he wasn't really sorry to her. The only person he felt like apologizing to sincerely was Ash, for some reason or another. Why did he care so much about his younger roommate? It didn't make any sense. This thought distraught him for just a moment and he continued his answer with, "Just had a rough night. I haven't been sleeping well lately, that's all. That coupled with my anxiety sometimes makes me do weird things. You know that," he said with a fake grin. Though I hardly think it's any of your business anyways. That was about the best explanation he could come up with without sparing any crude details. Besides, even he didn't have an explanation for the yard. It was still a mystery. "But I'm fine now," he added rather quickly in a rushed attempt to reassure her that everything was going smoothly now. The reality was quite the opposite.

                                s**t, she had to mention the office. He hoped his boss would be forgiving for this one screw-up. If not... he was about to be in a whole new world of pain. He quivered anxiously as a mess of new worries flooded his mind. He had to call his boss as soon as Camilla left.

                                "I-I'll see you on Sunday," he stuttered, attempting to usher her out the front door.
→ Camilla Ford

                                Camilla merely stood, unblinking, throughout her ex-husband's pathetic yammering, clearly unconvinced. She hated that fake grin of his, and it took every ounce of her self-control not to reach out and wipe it clean from his face. "You are sorry—" she snapped back bitterly, keeping her voice threateningly low, "—a sorry, spineless excuse of a man, and I honestly can't wait to be done with you..." Cutting her gaze to the side for a moment, albeit somewhat dramatically, she sighed. "I wish I could remember just what it was that made me fall in love with you in the first place..." She went on in a much softer, slightly pained voice, and if but for a moment, her blue eyes glazed over with stubborn tears. "...you're no longer the man I once knew, and you haven't been, not for a very, very long time." Black hearted or not, the tears that burned and threatened to fall from her eyes in seconds were anything but fake, along with the raw emotion that showed through her voice; a moment of weakness, to be sure, and the blue-eyed she-devil would be sure to never let such a thing happen in front of him again.

                                Biting the inside of her lip, she quickly cleared her throat and (momentarily) regained composure, giving her golden curls a confident toss. "—Right. Sunday." She moved to leave, but then added last-minute, gently placing a delicate hand between the door and frame in a small effort to keep Sebastian from locking her out right away: "And, Sebastian? Perhaps... Perhaps you should look into switching medications. It... Might help you sleep better." She locked eyes with him, briefly, and in that moment: any prior hostility had vanished into thin air, her voice having subsided into a near childlike whisper as she spoke. Something had snapped inside of her, then, and she just couldn't help herself. Quietly, she let go of the doorframe and made the long, slow and steady walk back to her car.

                                Any hope Mr. Ford had possibly derived from the experience would be eradicated the following Sunday. She obviously hadn't hardened herself enough, and she was going to be sure to fix that.
→ Sebastian Ford

                                All Sebastian did was stand idly and take Camilla's upbraiding. If he had tried to defend himself or perhaps point out a few things that she could surely take some time to change, he knew an inevitable argument would follow so he didn't even try and probably never would. It was only when he caught sight of those hidden tears behind her eyes did he become even more apprehensive and distressed. Just what did those mean? She wasn't faking them - he knew her well enough to tell. But why was she so suddenly stricken with those kinds of emotions concerning him?

                                And if he wasn't confused by Ash's sudden changes in emotions earlier, he was sure baffled by Camilla's. He stood frozen in the entry for a long time, staring at the front door even after Camilla had already left. Maybe this was a sign that their relationship could be fixed to civil terms. There was absolutely no way they would ever be together again for multiple reasons, some more obvious than others, but a mutual friendship wouldn't hurt them and it would definitely do good for Kayley to see that her parents were actually getting along with each other even if she didn't quite understand all of it yet.

                                He decided he might make a conscious effort to try to convince Camilla neither of them had to be angry with each other. But first, he had to call the office...

                                Much to his relief, he still retained his job with only a counseling statement that was emphasized as his first and only warning, and any further violations would end up in his termination from employment. After all, there were plenty of people out there who needed jobs and, as stated, they weren't afraid to threaten him with replacement. He would just have to not go out and be irresponsible on weeknights any more. What the hell was I thinking?

                                So, after the stressful phone conference was finished, Sebastian busied himself with getting cleaned up quickly and entertaining his daughter. He kept glancing at the hallway from the living room wishing Ash would come out soon. Why? He didn't exactly know. He just... wanted to talk to him.
→ Ash

                                From Camilla's harsh tell-off to the nerve-racking phone conversation, Asher had heard enough to know that last night's outing hadn't been the best idea, however, he selfishly chose to blame the other out of his own frustrations. "I may have invited him out, but he didn't have to come," He mumbled aloud, curled up on his side on top of his mattress, arms crossed. "He knew he had other obligations, like work and a kid—it's not my fault that he drank so much..." Not my fault at all.

                                But, even still, why was he getting so worked up over nothing? Whatever happened had already happened, and there was nothing he could do about it. Forget the multitude of questions that he had. Neither of them could remember a single thing, no matter how sorely he wished he could.

                                What I need to do, honestly, is take a shower. "Disgusting" didn't even begin to cover how he felt. However, with Kayley now in the house, he'd have to be extremely careful not to let her see him in his current state. Because I bet Sebastian cleaned himself up, already. Damn. Thankfully, though, the older man didn't seem like the type who would use up every ounce of available hot water, which meant he was free to enjoy himself. With a fresh pair of clothes firmly in hand, he exited his room and made his way to the small bathroom as quickly and quietly as possible, locking the door once he was safely inside.

                                Regardless of who saw him, or what they happened to say to him, Ash refused to open the door and reply to any conversation until he was decent again—a process which took him a full three-quarters of an hour, his long obsidian locks proving to be the main source of all his troubles. Yet in the end, he proudly reemerged from the steam filled room like a new man, pristinely and painstakingly groomed once again.

                                "What's for lunch?" He called expectantly to the man in the living room as he proceeded to the utility room with the intent of doing his laundry, a task he never entrusted to anyone but himself. (And, usually, with good reason.) As much as he didn't want to do his roommate any favors for the time being, much less avoid the topic of their night out, a thought suddenly occurred to him that gave him just as much hope as it had worry: sticking his head out just beyond the frame, he asked cautiously, "Did you, by chance, happen to check your phone?" It was in my pocket, after all...

                                There was no telling what they might find, if anything, but it seemed like the only lead they had in solving the mystery.
→ Sebastian Ford

                                The sound of the bathroom door shutting and locking alerted Sebastian that Ash had finally emerged from his room. He didn't happen to see the other male, however, only sat back on the couch and could hear the shower running for quite some time. He didn't blame him. Only when Ash emerged a full forty-five minutes later did Sebastian get up from the couch and head towards the kitchen. Upon being asked what was for lunch, he realized he was a bit hungry and so was his daughter.

                                "Well, I don't know," he stated at first, opening the fridge and freezer to check what they had in stock.

                                "Daddy, can you make pizza?" Kayley's voice called from the kitchen table.

                                "Honey, I don't think we have pizza," he replied with a little sigh. "How about a sandwich?"

                                "Okay," she replied before padding over to the fridge to look. She spotted a tub with sliced watermelon inside and gasped before grabbing it. "I want watermelon, too," she said before she carried it back to the table, opened the lid rather precariously and started eating the fruit with her hands.

                                Sebastian was in the midst of laying out sandwich ingredients when he glanced over to Ash, who was peeking out of the laundry room doorway. "No," he replied before his hand slipped into his pocket and he retrieved his phone, wondering what kind of secrets it held about the previous night. He stared at the reflective screen for a moment in hesitation because he was a bit afraid to look. Tentatively, he switched the screen on and took a gander through the camera roll. "Well, this explains the coffee cup," he stated as he flipped through pictures of he and Ash inside of a coffee shop. That must have been some time early in the morning when those shops open for the early birds. Evidence of just how late they had stayed out. Most of the pictures were of himself, too, so it must have been Ash who was actually taking them. That kind of explained how his phone had ended up in Ash's pocket. "Still doesn't tell us anything about the chocolate, though," he said as he handed the phone to Ash for him to glance through.

                                "What would you like on your sandwich?"
→ Ash & Kayley Ford

                                "Bacon, lettuce, and tomato," Ash replied rather indifferently, joining the father-daughter pair in the kitchen while he waited on his laundry. "I'll fry up the bacon myself if we don't already have any." His tired monotone was a clear sign of his massive headache, but he did his best to put on a smile when he acknowledged Kayley with a slight wave before going about to make himself a cup of tea.

                                "Hey, kiddo~ How are—?" His sentence was no sooner terminated by a loud thud as Kayley leapt down from her chair and practically bulldozed her way into the young man, momentarily forgetting all about her watermelon as she squealed excitedly: "Mr. Ash!"

                                Bracing himself up against the counter was all he could do to prevent another accident (breaking another cup was not on his agenda, as his hand still ached enough from the first one,) and from spilling the (thankfully still cold,) water that he planned to use for his tea all over himself. Though, it was clear as Kayley's tiny arms began to squeeze his leg that she had no intention of letting him go anytime soon, and with that, he looked down at her and then over his shoulder at her father imploringly.

                                "Yeah, hey, how are you?" He tried again with a small laugh, setting the cup down on the counter and gently ruffling her hair, to which she suddenly gasped and grabbed his hand.

                                "What happened?! Daddy, Mr. Ash has a boo-boo! I'mma go get him a Band-Aid!" And with that, she bolted off toward the nearest medicine cabinet, never mind the fact that she was much too short to reach it.

                                "I'm sorry," The younger man said to his older roommate with a frown. The last thing he wanted to do was cause more trouble. "I would have taken care of it myself, but I couldn't find them..." Although, while Sebastian went off to help his daughter, Ash gingerly took the phone and began to look through it.

                                Nothing really stands out... A lot of these are just silly, He thought, relatively relieved until he reached near the end; the sight nearly made him choke:

                                There, in the backseat of the cab, were he and Sebastian—presumably on their way back from the coffee shop—splitting a bar of chocolate a la Lady and The Tramp; the subsequent pictures that followed played out like a bad flip-through comic, their lips meeting in a kiss at the end. His dark eyes threatened to roll back inside his skull out of both excitement and horror, and his heart thundered in his chest as he hurriedly tried to delete the evidence—that was, of course, after he had transferred it all safely over to his own cell phone.

                                Once everything was officially cleared on Sebastian's end, Ash set the device down on the counter and smiled at the other male upon his return. "Your guess is as good as mine," he laughed with a shrug. "I couldn't find anything."

                                At least, nothing you need to worry yourself about. Heart still racing, he slid his hands into his pockets, fingers firmly enclosed around his phone. He couldn't wait to have a better look at those pictures when he was alone. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back...
→ Sebastian Ford

                                A chuckle escaped his lips after witnessing Kayley's excited and worried outburst towards Ash. His green eyes trailed to the wound on the younger male's hand after Kayley's exclamation and his amused expression turned to a bit of a grimace. When did that happen? This morning? Well, he'd get that taken care of for him. He vaguely wondered why Ash hadn't asked where the medical supplies were earlier as he jogged off to follow Kayley; having a young daughter attempting to shuffle through a medicine cabinet in search of band-aids was definitely not a good thing...

                                Besides, the pack of small band-aids Sebastian actually had in the house was almost empty, and they definitely weren't big enough to cover Ash's cut. He'd have to put some anti-biotic on it and wrap it up, instead.

                                Within a few minutes, he and Kayley came back into the kitchen with the supplies.

                                "Well, I guess it'll just remain a mystery," he said with a shrug of his own in response to Ash's statement.

                                "Now let me see that," Sebastian murmured as he delicately took Ash's smaller hand out of his pocket and in his own to inspect the wound a bit more closely. "That'll get infected if you just leave it," he said, his voice low, and touch of genuine concern laced his gaze as he glanced into Ash's eyes and opened the little bottle of Neosporin he had, spreading it over the cut. He then wrapped his hand in a bandage thoughtfully before glancing down at Kayley, who was standing there quite impatiently with a band-aid at the ready.

                                "Can I put it on now?" she asked as she held it up in the air, showcasing it to them.

                                "Mmhm, let me unwrap it for you," Sebastian replied before doing just that and letting Kayley stick the band-aid on top of the gauze wrap where it wouldn't really do anything. But well, it was the thought that counted. "There we go. You fixed Mr. Ash's hand. He's all better now," he chimed as he picked her up in his strong arms and carried her back towards the kitchen table so she would sit down and eat her food.

                                The front door swung open and in walked none other than Andrew. He was dirty and greasy and he didn't look all too happy.

                                Sebastian whipped around in bewilderment. "Close up shop already..?" he asked disconcertingly.

                                "Yeah," Andrew grumbled as he tossed off his shoes at the front door and headed into the hallway towards the bathroom with intent of taking a shower. "No business," he called back to the kitchen. He then disappeared for a few minutes and emerged once again even more pissed off than he was before. "Who the fu-" he started, glanced at Kayley and Sebastian before cutting off his word and continuing, "Who used all the hot water?"
→ Ash

                                "Yeah, a mystery," Ash echoed quietly, unable to do much other than accept his sudden treatment as Sebastian took a hold of his hand, immediately surprised over just how gentle the older man was with him, and so much so that he completely forgot to wince the moment the topical antibiotic came in contact with his cut. What did make him wince, however, was Andrew's sudden entry into the house, and he barely had any time to thank either Sebastian or Kayely before he found the man's harsh, accusatory gaze upon him.

                                "I took a shower," The young man retorted smartly, cocking his head to the side with a hand placed challengingly on his hip in a Just what are you going to do about it? fashion. "As far as I knew, I was free to use the water—you know, given the fact that I'm helping pay for the rent and all."

                                Caring less about what Andrew would say or do in response to that, Ash defiantly turned his back and resumed making his tea; once it was heating up in the microwave, he helped himself nonchalantly to the refrigerator, pulling out the mayonnaise to go along with his sandwich. It was his least-favorite of all condiments, but he couldn't deny that, at least in small amounts, it did wonders for the quality of a sandwich.

                                The washer concluded its cycle with a loud beep, and after setting his own place up at the table, he swiftly excused himself to switch his clothes over to the dryer.

                                "Save me a piece of watermelon, won't you, Nurse Kayley?" He called back sweetly, blatantly putting in the effort to ignore Andrew. I hate you, I hate you, I hate you. And I don't even ******** know you.
→ Sebastian Ford & Andrew Walker

                                Andrew's fists clenched at his sides as he regarded Ash's smug response. "I don't care if you're helping us pay the rent. There are other people living here. Least you could do is not be a selfish brat," he growled as he stalked closer to the kitchen.

                                Sebastian instantly took a step forward to prevent Andrew from advancing any further, putting himself in the line of fire if only to save Ash from more verbal abuse and to keep Kayley's innocent eyes and ears far away from such troubles.

                                "Get rid of this guy," Andrew whispered bitterly as he watched Ash disappear into the laundry room. "He's no good. And there's something off about him. I don't like it."

                                "Just deal with it for now," Sebastian urged quietly.

                                "Did you hear what he said to me? And the way he carries himself. It's just repulsive. If I didn't know better, I'd say he was a fa-"

                                "Please, just... calm down. I don't want anyone fighting, especially with Kayley here." Sebastian urged Andrew away from the kitchen and into the living room.

                                "Fine. Screw it," he hissed before grabbing his shoes and going for the door. "I'll be back later." With that, the angered male stalked out of the house. As much as Sebastian didn't like to see him this way, perhaps it was for the better to keep things civil around the house... And if his nerves weren't bothering him enough, he didn't want to think about what would happen later when Andrew returned. What if he ever found out about Ash's line of work, and his sexuality? The foundations of this roommate-ship would definitely crumble.

                                That's when he went to thinking... perhaps there were other options out there for Ash. Being a prostitute had to be deplorable, and dangerous, and degrading. Sebastian felt his stomach sink when he thought about it. He truly pitied Ash and now he felt determined to help the younger male set a better path for himself in life.

                                "Hey, Ash," he stated as he went back to the kitchen, glancing into the laundry room. "I need to talk to you later." It was a conversation for some time when Kayley was either asleep or if she wasn't around. In the meantime, he joined his daughter at the table for lunch.
→ Ash

                                By the time Sebastian had urged Andrew into the kitchen, Ash had heard enough; he could feel his own fists clenching and teeth gritting. Repulsive, huh? You've obviously never looked in a mirror— And... f*****t. The word stopped him dead in his tracks, like a bullet straight to the heart. Though, it wasn't the word that bothered him so much as the negative connotation behind it. Words were relatively useless, after all, apart from the meanings applied to them, and Andrew had chosen to apply that word like a declaration of war.

                                He stood in the laundry room long after he had put his clothes in to dry, leaning up against the dryer with his head down and hair all up in his face, grateful for the silence that followed the closing of the front door. It wasn't until Sebastian's voice pulled him from his thoughts that he finally looked up, briefly catching the saddened and worried look in those green eyes. The phrase "I need to talk to you," was always unsettling, to say the least, and the fact that Sebastian needed to talk to him later had Asher fearing for the worst.

                                "I need to work tonight, but I promise that I'll be home later than Andrew." He started, rather dejectedly. He could feel the nausea beginning to pile up in the pit of his stomach. "Or maybe even sometime tomorrow, when he's not around. You can text me—or call me—to let me know. I'll give you my number."

                                Lightly tossing his head back to remove the hair from his face before returning to the table, it was as if a well-trained actor had emerged from behind a curtain: the young man had put on his best smile and proceeded to eat, seemingly without a care in the world. He even joined in making pleasantries.

                                "How was your week, Ms. Kayley? Did you do anything special? And thank you, Dr. Ford: my hand is better, now." He chuckled softly, generating another, smaller and even more honest smile as he remembered the secret cell phone pictures that still rested in his pocket. Those should definitely cheer me up some, later.

                                And if he were lucky enough, maybe Mr. Ford would be able to express whatever was concerning him before he had to leave. Otherwise, the offer for exchanging numbers was still valid.
→ Sebastian Ford

                                The depressed tone in Ash's voice and similar look on his face told Sebastian enough that he had heard his short and rather unsettling conversation with Andrew.

                                "Yeah," was his delayed response. He stood there in thought for a few seconds after Ash had walked past him into the kitchen. Your work... that's what I wanted to talk to you about. In fact, he wasn't even sure if Ash might get offended for his offer to help find a better job but, well, he was going to try anyways. He hated seeing such a beautiful person misused like that.

                                A sudden flush of red crossed his face. When did he ever begin attributing that adjective with Ash? Beautiful? That word meant a lot more than just physical attractiveness. Quickly, he did an about-face and briskly walked over to the table where said beautiful person and Kayley (who was also something beautiful by herself) sat. He sat across from Ash and studied him in thought as the younger male and Kayley had their conversation. He chuckled when he was mentioned as 'Dr. Ford', yet that didn't stray him from his original thoughts about beauty, of all things. What was so beautiful about Ash? Maybe it was that stupid wry smile, or the way his ebony locks caressed pallid skin; how he was so adamant about calling Sebastian by his last name instead of his first just as a friendly joke, or even the saddening way he was able to hide his pain with such a believable smile.

                                But soon, Sebastian realized he was staring and quickly averted his gaze to Kayley instead, letting his attention fade back to reality. He listened to Kayley's excited account of her friend's birthday party and everything she did there.

                                "That sounds fun," he said faintly, leaning one elbow on the table and his chin in his hand. "I also think it would be fun to go to the aquarium tomorrow to see lots of fish. They might even have turtles there, too," he suggested with a smile, then laughed as he witnessed his daughter's eyes grow wide and her mouth open in a gasp. "I'll take that as a 'yes'."

                                "Yay! Can Mr. Ash come too?" she asked in glee.

                                Sebastian's emerald gaze flickered back over to Ash in question. It seemed that Kayley saw something beautiful in him as well, at least enough for her to want to be around him and ask if he could go everywhere with her.
→ Ash

                                "That sounds lovely," Ash concluded with Kayley, before her father brought up the topic of the aquarium. He could have sworn he had felt the other man's eyes on him just a moment ago, but he didn't have anything other to go by than that nagging feeling in the back of his mind, which he subsequently categorized as paranoia. I'm already anxious enough as it is over the fact that he wants to talk to me... Just why would Sebastian have been staring at him on top of that, then, if he really had been staring? I wish I could figure you out. If there was one thing he couldn't stand aside from intolerance, it was being unable to read people.

                                Suddenly, the young man felt incredibly vulnerable, and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat, momentarily reverting back to the birthday subject in an attempt to buy himself a minute. "You know, Kayley: you'll have to tell me when your birthday is so that I can get you a present. All good little girls deserve to have presents on their birthdays, right? And please," he added with a nervous laugh and a small shake of his head, "I'm old enough to be your big brother, not a Mr. ..." Although, he had to admit: big bro. He kind of liked that. Smiling once again, he sighed heavily. Looks like there's no use in trying to avoid attention. All eyes were glued to him, thanks to Kayley's invitation, and he could feel his anxiety creeping back.

                                "Well—" Ash began, scratching the back of his head and averting his gaze as he tried to search for the right words. Work would surely put him at a major disadvantage, given the fact that, as long as his client was willing to pay extra for any overtime, any schedule he tried to set was rendered relatively useless. However, above anything else, he couldn't bear to disappoint the little girl: the excitement that lit up those bright green eyes had taken ahold of his heart in a death-grip. After a long moment another heavy sigh passed through his lips, and he offered a tiny, defeated smile. "...sure. I'll be there as soon as I can. I promise."

                                However, as if things weren't already looking bleak enough for Asher, he found himself running late later that evening, unable to even get ready before Sebastian put Kayley to bed; he didn't want to inconvenience his roommate's time with his daughter, so he neglected to say anything about his tight schedule to the older male and was quickly regretting that decision.

                                With a large, black hooded sweatshirt and matching black sweatpants fitted over his outfit out of decency, he made his way from the bathroom to the front door, stopping briefly to pass on a small folded piece of paper to Sebastian that contained his neatly written cell phone number.

                                "For tomorrow," He breathed, running his fingers swiftly through his hair, silently hoping Sebastian wouldn't realize the rush he was in, though he highly doubted that was honestly possible; if but for a moment, he stalled just in front of the door. As much as he wanted to ask the other for the favor, it just didn't feel right. He would never give me a ride, anyway... Who would, in their right mind?

                                Would he?

                                Biting his lip and swallowing hard, Asher dared to chance it: "I'm running late—" He admitted weakly, turning away so that Sebastian wouldn't be able to see just how much it pained him to do so. "—if... If you could just give me a ride, tonight, I'll do anything to make it up to you. I really hate the fact that I've caused you so much trouble, today."
→ Sebastian Ford

                                "Oh, right," he murmured in reply after taking the little folded note with numbers written on it. He glanced at the paper and then looked to Ash, swiftly noticing the younger male's stress. It was easy to tell; any time someone ran a hand through their hair it was usually a nervous twitch. He knew. He did it, too. "Don't worry about it if you're busy," he added as he watched Ash walk towards the front door, tilting his head to the side just a few degrees as the younger male tarried at the front door.

                                "A ride?" he repeated in question. "Sure. It's no problem," he said as he put the paper in his pocket, making a mental note to enter Ash's number into his phone contacts later. Kayley was already asleep and Andrew was there. (He had come home a while ago, but didn't spare Sebastian nor Ash a glance or a word.) He probably would have politely declined Ash's request if Andrew wasn't home, just for the sake of not wanting to leave Kayley alone for even a minute. But, since that wasn't the case, he was actually more than glad to help out his roommate.

                                He grabbed his glasses, wallet and keys from the kitchen counter and headed out to the car, locking the front door behind them. "Don't worry about causing trouble," he stated as he got into the driver's seat and turned the car on. "I told you if you needed anything you could just ask me and I'll do what I can." He offered a small smile over to Ash. Maybe this was a good time to talk to him about what had concerned him earlier.

                                "You know, if you want, I could help you find a better job," he murmured. "I mean, I'm not trying to offend you or anything, I just..." he paused and glanced over for a moment. "I think you have a lot more potential." He blew out a sigh and left it at that. There was a whole lot more he could say on the subject, but then it would sound like fatherly preaching and he didn't want to do that.
→ Ash

                                He could feel his overall self-worth slipping away as he slipped out the door and into the car behind Sebastian, keeping his head low and his shoulders slumped as he sunk down into the passenger's seat, wishing he could simply vanish into thin air the further they drove.

                                "I know, but..." Ash tried to object in response to Sebastian's willingness to help, albeit quickly losing the will to speak apart from occasional idle directions at the sight of that smile. It killed him; he could feel a sudden, uncontrollable onrush of tears welling up in his dark eyes, and he moved to swipe at them furiously with his thick sleeve, lest his reflection in the window were to give his weakness away.

                                It seemed like forever before he found his voice, or even dared to move again.

                                "You're not offending me," The young man choked out, finally, just above a whisper. They were seconds away from his destination, and it would take every ounce of his strength to leave the safety of the vehicle. Each word that passed through his lips was seemingly more painful and difficult than the last. "I... I know that you're just trying to help, but you don't have to—I..." Hate having to rely on others, after taking care of myself for so long. "...honestly just don't know what else to do, Sebastian." His soft voice cracked, and in that moment, he felt infinitely smaller: he was seconds away from breaking down, and his thin frame visibly began to shake from all the pressure to hold himself together in front of the other; a few renegade tears streaked silently down his face, surely catching what little light as they fell, he feared, and momentarily staining the soft leather beneath him.

                                "B-but we'll talk later," Ash stammered quickly, now desperately trying to leave. As if crying itself wasn't bad enough, he was borderline breaking down in front of someone he barely even knew. "Thanks for the ride—" Why the ******** does this guy care so much? Just what was it about Mr. Ford that made him feel so damned vulnerable? The thought brought with it a number of emotions: anger, confusion, and something else that he couldn't quite place. Nonetheless, he chose to blame it all on the remnants of his hangover.

                                Yeah, that's just it. He's still hung-over, and so am I. But even so, Ash found himself turning back to speak to his rather unexpected savior, saying, "I don't care what time it is: please call me tomorrow. I want to go." And with that, he walked off, virtually disappearing into the darkness.
→ Sebastian Ford

                                As soon as he caught sight of those tears and heard the unmistakable breakdown whimpering in Ash's voice, Sebastian felt his heart clench in his chest. He wanted to reach out and stop Ash from leaving, to pull him back inside of the car and let him break down, be his shoulder to cry on but it was already too late. In that moment, Ash was so very different from their first encounter. Where was that hardened, uncaring person? Perhaps that was a mask he had put on to keep himself distanced from other people. He saw it now - Ash was such a lonely person and it was that which almost broke Sebastian's heart. There was nothing worse than being alone.

                                "I will call you," he murmured with a sigh after watching Ash disappear. I promise.

                                But now there was nothing to do except go home and try to get some sleep.



                                He was awoken quite early in the morning by Kayley tugging at his arm, trying to pull him off the couch to no avail. He was much too heavy for her to even budge, but she was so excited about going to the aquarium that she didn't care. As long as she succeeded in waking her father, that was all that mattered. "Daddy, Daddy! We're going to the aquarium today. Don't forget!"

                                "Alright, alright. You have to get cleaned and dressed first," he said as he sat up and glanced at the clock on the TV's cable box. 7:13 AM. "Go put some clothes on. I'll be in to help you in a minute." At that, the girl rushed off excitedly.

                                It was way too early to leave yet, but he supposed there was no harm in getting ready. The first thing he thought about was calling Ash, though, so he reached to the glass coffee table and grabbed his phone, clicking the call button after highlighting Ash's contact number.

                                "Morning. Sorry for calling so early," he said after he heard the dial tone stop ringing, then clearing his throat after he realized his voice was a bit dry and raspy from sleeping. "Place doesn't open 'til ten, so Kayley and I will be leaving at nine forty-five. Just letting you know in case... you had business to take care of or something. I can also come pick you up if you need me to."

                                He stopped and waited almost nervously for an answer.

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