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→ Ash

                                Ash grew evermore incredulous of the situation, as well as impatient. "You're a grown man, Ford," he began to chide, "so stop your blubbering and just tell me what's—"

                                The words resounded painfully in his head. "What?" Kayley's... "Gone? Gone, where? She was just here..." ...a moment ago. And it was even more painful when he realized that it wasn't Sunday anymore. In fact, Sunday had come and gone. Which could only mean...

                                "She's back with your wife for the week—? Err..." Well, that certainly came out wrong. "You know what I mean..." Asher carefully tried to begin again, scratching the back of his head and looking away out of reflex, regardless of the fact that he still couldn't quite see Sebastian in the dark. However, he could certainly hear and feel him: the couch shook subtly beneath him, and his heavy breathing dominated the otherwise silent room. "I'm really sorry..." He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair—a nervous tick—searching for the right words.

                                "At least you'll have her back, this upcoming weekend?"

                                Although for some reason, Ash quickly got the feeling that that wasn't exactly something he should have said, either.

                                Man, am I bad at comforting others... And an older man, at that? Forget it! No way. Being behind on so many years of experience, the younger male seriously doubted that anything he said to his poor roommate would make difference, merely for their gap in age alone. Sure, Ash was pretty worldly for his age, but not as wise as he would have liked to be.

                                "...did I miss anything, yesterday?" He inquired finally in a rather meek voice. "How was work? Or..." He had been going to say, Or did you even go? but swiftly decided against it for obvious reasons. Instead, he boldly opted to talk about the last thing that he ever even wanted to think of: himself.

                                "You know, I never let you answer me the other day, after I started talking about myself." He frowned.

                                Maybe it will help.
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→ Sebastian Ford

                                "Yeah," was his only response to Ash's attempt at making him feel better, and although it did little to help, Sebastian inwardly appreciated that he was trying. Ash was right about one thing though: he would have Kayley again this weekend at least until, or if, Camilla decided to take this all to court again. His whole horrid thought process started over again until Ash dared to change the subject, thank God. It certainly saved Sebastian from thinking up a million more things to worry about and replaced it with a lighthearted conversation instead. Really, he needed something, anything, to get his mind off of what was happening and Ash offered that.

                                He breathed a heavy sigh and forced his body to relax as he sat back on the couch and closed his eyes. What exactly was Ash talking about again? Oh, yeah, when he was in the kitchen making macaroni and they were talking... he was explaining all the places he had been and seen, especially Japan. But then, that was also when Ash had so suddenly left the room as if he wasn't comfortable talking about it then. What made a difference now? Did he merely offer the subject up just to make Sebastian feel better?

                                That thought invoked a small twinge of a smile on Sebastian's lips before he said anything. "I... wanted to know more about Japan," he said quietly, trying to focus on the question. "If you don't mind."
→ Ash

                                With a sigh of relief, Ash smiled a rare, genuine smile. (And thanked his lucky stars for the dark. Oh, blessed, blessed dark—how quickly one's opinion can change about you!)

                                "Really?" The younger man shot back, keeping his voice soft. A certain tenderness lurked in the youth's undertone, an almost wistful sadness, but it disappeared within moments, replaced by an overwhelming craving for cigarettes. "Well," He paused briefly, remembering the other's blatant rule about not smoking indoors, "would you mind if we took this outside, for a bit? I need to light up." It was the only way he could be sure to keep his own rising anxiety under control. And the air might help clear your mind, too, he added in his thoughts.

                                After taking some time to situate himself, Ash fell into a momentary silence as he pondered over how he might begin to relive his hidden memories; they were all so vivid, behind his eyes. It was just putting them into words that was the problem. There was always the risk of saying too much, getting too close, too involved, and he had sworn to himself all that time ago that he would never, ever do anything like that again; closing his eyes, he took one long drag and proceeded to hold it for as long as he could before slowly exhaling.

                                Well... Here goes nothing.

                                "I was in a band together with my current boyfriend, at the time—I sang, and he played the guitar, while two mutual friends of ours played the bass and the drums, respectively. A scout from a record company of which I forget the name of, now, had seen our band play at a local club and said that we had the potential. So, after we built up a bit of popularity, the scout—who subsequently became our official manager—suggested going into the music scene on a larger scale. We honestly couldn't believe that our first venue was booked all the way out in Tokyo." Asher's low voice was measured, calm; his face gently illuminated by the glowing embers at the end of his cigarette, the soft light capturing his thousand-mile stare off into the distance.

                                In all honesty, he had never forgotten the name of the record company, but he chose to keep that information to himself. He doubted Sebastian cared for such detail, and he didn't particularly want to become too wrapped up within his own story. It was bad enough already, having to tell it in the first place.

                                "It was unlike anything I had ever seen before, even coming from L.A.—everything was so spacious, despite the heavy concentration of the population. Massive. With all the lights and sounds, I seriously felt like I was in some other world..." Cigarette fitted between his lips, he took yet another drag, albeit finishing his current train of thought as he exhaled: "Everything was so silent—so peacefully quiet—despite all of what was going on. Even at nighttime, depending upon where in the city you were. It was weird. Interesting. Nice."

                                "But anyway," He went on, gently flicking some of the embers to the ground, "I liked it. It was different."

                                Was Sebastian even into music, he wondered? What would he care about his late-night escapades in a foreign country? Yet if Mr. Ford had any questions at all, now was certainly the time to ask.
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→ Sebastian Ford

                                "Sure," he murmured in reply, following Ash outside the sliding glass door to the open porch in the equally barren back yard. He stood a few feet away from the other, leaning against the coquina wall. The air was quite cool and breezy, bringing with it the scent of the salty ocean nearby. The sky was open and unclouded, offering a view of the few visible stars that were bright enough to shine through the glow of the city nearby.

                                He and Ash couldn't have had pasts that were more drastically different. In a band? Sebastian didn't know the first thing about music or playing instruments; he had been more attuned with writing and journalism. It must have been pretty exciting though, having the chance to play somewhere as large and popular as Tokyo, maybe become famous; that everything people wished for, right?

                                Sebastian's eyes were drawn to the dim orange glow of the cigarette for just a moment, noticing how it illuminated Ash's face and he could, for a moment, clearly see his vacant expression as he recalled the events. There was one other thing he said that caught Sebastian's attention as well: 'boyfriend'. Obviously Sebastian knew that Ash wasn't straight - it was plainly clear by the clothes he wore when first stepping into the house. But he said 'boyfriend' as if it meant nothing, it was a simple fact to be shared. He envied that privilege more than anything. Not having to worry about other people's thoughts, acceptance, especially from his age group. Younger people nowadays were generally more accepting. And it wasn't like thirty was really old, but the people who mattered in his life, whether he liked them or not, would easily use such a thing against him. He even had to worry about possibly losing his job, or at least ruining his reputation around the office and enduring ridicule from the older employees.

                                He wondered if Ash was someone he could possibly confide in about this, but just as quickly dismissed the thought. He couldn't trust someone he had hardly known for a week with that kind of information. It was simply out of the question, yet the longer he kept it hidden away, the more it itched to free itself.

                                "So, you speak fluent Japanese?" he inquired, coming back around into reality. Of course it wasn't really a question. "What happened to your band?" was the real question he wanted to ask, sort of absorbed in this glorious story that took place in a far-off land he would probably never visit.
→ Ash

                                Well, as far as the question of language fluency went: Ash never did say how often he had been to Japan, during that first conversation he and Sebastian had the other afternoon. Merely that he had spent some time there, specifically when his biological father—a seasoned naval officer—had been stationed at the U.S. naval base located on the Miura Peninsula for those few short months of his childhood... Although, he failed to go into even that much detail at the time, either, because initially and admittedly: any thoughts of his father had been partially the reason as to why he'd gotten so upset that day.

                                "I've spent a lot of time there," He deviated somewhat unwillingly, for the sake of clarification. "Like I said, I used to live there, along with my older sister, but only for a few months, thanks to my father, and that was when I was really young. I learned a bit back then, even though the school I went to wasn't strictly Japanese since everything was so centered around the base. I never thought that I'd have the chance to go back, until that night at the club..." Voice drifting, he momentarily lost himself in thought again as he caught the comforting scent of the familiar sea breeze, pausing once more to light another cigarette.

                                "Did you know, not a single part of Japan is more than approximately ninety miles from the ocean?" He mused, with the traces of a smile. "I love the ocean." But, what was he originally talking about, again? Oh, right: the band—and the language.

                                "I always had the dream to go back after moving again, and that kept me hopeful and inspired enough to go out and find whatever materials I could—'how-to' guides, dictionaries, language CDs—you name it, to teach myself. And sure, by the time I had gone back to Tokyo with my band, all that hard learning sure as hell paid off: I could speak—and sing—with the best of them. Ask me to do any of that, now, though, and I'll only be able to recall bits and pieces." At that last bit, he frowned. "I'd like to get it all back, someday."

                                During the brief interlude from his main storyline, Asher took a handful of drags before continuing on:

                                "Whenever we weren't doing live shows in Shibuya—a major music and fashion district—we became a rather big hit in the various karaoke bars all over town. Those were the really fun times," He laughed as the memories came flooding back to mind. "We'd get drunk off our asses, barely even legal; I'd be legal there, now, but—we had a hell of a time," He then turned to Sebastian with a smile, but it was quick to fade once he realized who exactly he was talking to: an older man who, once again, probably had no interest in the escapades of a young—and what he was sure Sebastian now thought to be stupid—kid. Did he drink, now? No. Rarely, if ever. And it wasn't until after he had said and thought about it—alcohol, that was—that the conversation suddenly turned increasingly more somber.

                                "What happened with my band?" Ash repeated slowly, in a small, almost broken tone of voice. "We fought, and we eventually fell apart. Everyone grew to have their differences on how to go about things, and it just got harder and harder for any of us to agree on anything."

                                His thoughts quickly turned to his best friend and subsequent ex-boyfriend, with their alcohol problem lingering not too far behind them; how lucky he'd been to have been spared that addiction, at least.

                                "A lot of them started while my boyfriend was under the influence," He added quietly, meaning the fights, leaning forward in his chair and propping both his elbows on his knees to rest his chin in his hands, "and he would always get mad at me for things—not wanting to do this or that, focusing too much on one thing, not enough on another... He agreed too much with our manager, as opposed to me, and that pissed me off; they were always wanting me to do things that I didn't want to do, making me sing how I didn't want to sing. That wasn't who I was, or what I was all about. It was supposed to be our band..." Sighing heavily, he leaned back and ran his fingers through his long, black hair before putting out his cigarette.

                                Of course, once he realized that he had opened up about his past—and more specifically, his past relationship—more than he originally intended to, it was already far too late: he'd only been trying to cheer Sebastian up some, not spill almost his entire life story. Again he sighed, although this time, he was angry with himself, and was therefore quick to come to a conclusion.

                                "That's it, really."

                                However, after a long moment of silence, he visibly softened again, and his warm brown eyes locked with the green ones right across from them amidst the glow of the distant city lights, before he asked in that same, small voice:

                                "Sebastian... Does it bother you that I'm gay?"
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→ Sebastian Ford

                                The issue of learning a language and steadily forgetting it over time was one shared between Sebastian and Ash, it seemed. Yet it wasn't Japanese that Sebastian learned. It was French, a beautiful language that he, for a while, could speak and write rather well. He'd taken three years of it in high school and continued on through college with the dream that perhaps he'd travel somewhere and get to actually use it some day, but that plan, along with quite a few others, fell through completely. It had been years since he spoke or wrote anything in French. It was kind of sad, really. He wanted to learn more languages and travel. Unfortunately, he was at a point in his life where he was pretty much cemented down.

                                The mention of the ocean stirred some thoughts up as well. It was half the reason he moved from Pittsburgh to Miami. He loved the ocean, and the bright weather, the warm days, the palm trees... it was so drastically different from overcast, cold, depressing Pennsylvania.

                                He remained silent and looked at Ash as he continued to speak, taking in and committing all he said into memory. It all sounded so exciting until he got into the part where his band fell apart due to internal disagreements and the influence of alcohol. He himself drank a lot when he was in college and actually got into a lot of trouble because of it, but that was a story for another time.

                                He thought Ash was done for a moment after he mentioned that was it, yet suddenly he heard the small voice ask a very perplexing question. It had so suddenly come out of the blue... Sebastian didn't know what prompted him to ask that. The worst part was that it was so extremely ironic. It was like God, if he existed, was taunting him.

                                "N-no," he responded, blinking away his initial nervousness. He sighed heavily, contemplating his own situation before continuing, "That doesn't bother me at all. What bothers me is people who freak out about it. They find any excuse to torture someone who's different until that person doesn't know who they are any more, and they lose themselves for a long time..." He stopped and averted his gaze away from Ash. He didn't know what made him say all of that. He could have ended it with just a one-word answer, but somehow he felt obligated to spill that inner turmoil just as Ash did. "I respect that you're open about it. That's how it should be. You don't care what other people think about you and I envy that." Not to say that he was the same, he just used generalized terms. Really, he could be talking about any aspect of himself.
→ Ash

                                After letting the older man's words sink in, Ash roused himself from his seat, momentarily surprised as a jolt of pain surged through him: his legs had fallen asleep, and the rest of his body had grown quite stiff—typical signs of sitting down too long. Have we been out here a long time, really? He wondered as he stretched, raising his arms over his head before reaching down to touch his toes. I must have went on for longer than I thought.

                                However, instead of answering, the rather androgynous male merely flashed a wry, knowing smile as he turned to face Sebastian, ever so lightly and briefly laying a hand upon the other's shoulder as he passed him by, stealing a keen, sideways glance as he did so.

                                "Goodnight, then, Mr. Ford," He called teasingly over his shoulder with a halfhearted wave of his left hand. "I hope you sleep well." And with that, Ash disappeared into the darkness of the house.

                                Was his roommate gay? That might explain some things, Asher attempted to reason with himself. The man's initial nervousness, coupled with his lengthy explanation had been enough for him to make a positive judgment call, but it wasn't solid enough to completely go on; it was too soon to tell. He needed hard evidence.

                                But how?

                                The sudden prospect of trying to divulge Mr. Ford's hidden secrets, if but for the moment, made his blood rush.

                                How can I find out if he's gay? And preferably, without having either of them get caught around a certain other roommate. Maybe... Multitudes of ideas began to swarm in his mind, but it only took him a split second before he settled on one, and called out to Sebastian in a hushed voice:

                                "When's your next day off from work, aside from weekends? Maybe we could do something."
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→ Sebastian Ford

                                The wry smile and stolen glances, coupled with the understanding hand-on-the-shoulder gesture was enough to make him worry. Yeah, he had blurted out a bit too much and he suspected that Ash, in turn, suspected something strange. The fact that he didn't even say anything else about the subject was also troublesome.

                                "You too. Good night," came his delayed reply as he continued to stand outside and mull over his options for a little while, choosing not to mention anything else about this conversation. He still wasn't tired either, but the fact remained that he had to get ready to go to work at six, so he might as well try to get some sleep. He went inside the house behind Ash and locked the sliding door. He glanced up again when quiet words drifted to his ears.

                                "Day off?" he repeated, thought for a moment and shook his head. Why was Ash asking him to go out and do something? Wasn't that strange for a twenty-year old and a thirty-year old to go out together even if it was just on friendly terms? And if they did go, what would they possibly do? "I don't know," was his soft answer. His face brightened a little bit as something suddenly came to his mind. "Wait, actually I've got Thursday afternoon to myself. Dentist appointment at noon so I'll only be working in the morning..." his voice trailed off as he shrugged, then asked the million dollar question, "What do you want to do?"

                                And why?
→ Ash

                                Although Thursday was much sooner than the young man had expected, he was determined to make it work. Sebastian's secret had created an insatiable urge. He needed to find out the truth, and he would, by any means necessary.

                                "Oh, I don't know," Ash continued to bait his roommate, purposefully keeping his voice as nonchalant as possible as he turned to face him once again, "I was thinking that maybe we could go out and find ourselves on Thursday night, then." The shadow of a smirk played on his lips in the dim lighting; of course, he was not only alluding to, but also using Sebastian's own words against him. "Have a good time, get your mind off of things..." Looking up to the ceiling with a shrug, he casually began to twirl a strand of his dark hair around his index finger.

                                "Why?" Feeling like he had effectively backed the older man into a bit of a corner, now, he grew increasingly more smug on the inside. "It'll be my treat, to make up for the past couple of days. You don't think it's weird, do you? I just want to further make a good impression on, as well as get to know you more as my roommate, that's all." He added, brown eyes blinking and innocently wide, yet decisively locked on their target.

                                However, a more unfortunate thought occurred to him, and it was the only thing that tempted him to rethink his course of action.

                                "You don't suppose Andrew will mind, do you?"
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→ Sebastian Ford

                                Flustered at the fact that his own words had been used against him, Sebastien averted his gaze from Ash's. Good thing it was pretty dark and hard to tell that he was slightly embarrassed about that. But the prospect of going out somewhere and actually doing something fun appealed to him greatly. He needed to get out; he couldn't remember the last time he did. It was really quite sad, to say the least. This house, his workplace, they were going to drive him crazy soon enough if he didn't.

                                "Alright, sure," he agreed finally. Ash seemed to have good reasons for doing so and Sebastian didn't see what he had to lose, even if it was a bit awkward. As for the question about Andrew... he wasn't sure if it was a good idea for him to come along or not. As far as he could tell, he and Ash didn't get along very well. He knew that would happen from the get-go, but it was already a bad aura wafting around the place.

                                "We'll have to ask him I guess." Though Sebastian doubted he'd want to go. Once Andrew decided he didn't like somebody, they didn't exist to him and he would refuse to go anywhere or do anything with that person. It was a known fact. But asking would have to wait, as the time was floating around somewhere near 4AM.

                                "Good night," Sebastian stated again before disappearing into his bedroom.
→ Ash

                                "Go ahead and ask him for your own sake, not mine." Came Asher's blunt reply. "Honestly, I don't care what he does, but from just going by the behavior he's already demonstrated, I can guarantee that he won't like it." Not one bit. A gay bar was the certainly the last place any homophobe would want to be, and given the fact that Andrew didn't like him enough as it was, already, he really wouldn't like him, then.

                                While sleep had been hard to come by for the youth out of what remained of that morning, the rest of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday had come and gone in a seemingly effortless blur. As far as he knew, his plans with Mr. Ford for the evening were still underway and whether the other had spoken to Andrew in the meantime or not, he wasn't going to let anything spoil them.

                                Making an effort to up and moving before the rather unlikely pair—how they had even become friends in the first place he could hardly guess, how different they seemed to be from each other—Asher set about to starting the day on a good note by making a hearty, home-cooked breakfast that consisted of buttermilk pancakes, cheesy scrambled eggs, sausage, and bacon.

                                "Good morning," He called, after having officially set the table for three with two cups of coffee and his own cup of tea. Although if the smell that now filled the house failed to wake them up: he didn't know what else would. "I just hope you guys have the time to eat all of this..." He grumbled to himself after a minute, briefly getting up to poke his head in the hallway, checking for any remote activity aside from his own.
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→ Sebastian Ford & Andrew Walker

                                Thursday morning finally dawned after the last few long days at work and Sebastian was quite happy about it. He knew he'd only be working for a couple of hours, then he'd go to his dentist appointment and be off the rest of the day. And in the evening, he was actually going out somewhere to have fun. Where exactly, he wasn't sure, but anywhere was better than here.

                                The sweet aromas of cooking pancake batter, coffee and bacon invaded his room. He sat up in the bed and glanced over at the clock, noting that it was about time to wake up anyways, though it was quite early. He heard Ash's voice calling from the hallway and smiled; the younger male had actually gone to the trouble of making a full breakfast for them this morning. It was a random, nice gesture and he found that courteous behavior quite becoming.

                                So he rolled out of bed, opting to be lazy for a while and didn't get dressed yet. Besides, he didn't want to accidentally get grease on his work clothes or something. Sebastian emerged from the hallway wearing loose plaid sleeping pants and a plain white t-shirt, running a hand through his short brown hair as he followed the sweet scents of a home-cooked meal.

                                He spotted Ash standing at the end of the hallway and offered a smile to him. "Good morning Ash," he started. "Thanks for cooking breakfast. I really can't tell you how much I appreciate it."

                                The sound of a door squeaking open made Sebastian glance back for a moment as he watched Andrew emerge as well. "Hey," he murmured to the both of them, a greeting more than what Sebastian had expected. Maybe the fact that Ash cooked food made him a bit more agreeable today.
→ Ash

                                A nice gesture, perhaps, but random? Most certainly not. Still driven with the intent of figuring out just what made Mr. Ford tick, Asher was willing to pull out every possible stop until he had an answer. (Although, if he could win Andrew over even in the slightest, that would certainly be a major bonus.)

                                Casually returning the older man's smile before returning to the table, he shrugged, and upon seeing Andrew emerge, he waved. "No big deal. Just hope it's not too much."

                                Unlike his roommates, Asher was already fully dressed and looking like he came fresh out of a Tokyo street scene—what the unfamiliar might call "punk," in other words—with a large, off-the-shoulder thinly black and white striped t-shirt that was purposely frayed at the bottom, layered over a plain black wife-beater and a studded black belt, with fitted black straight-leg jeans to match, and a rather stylish pair of embellished black combat boots. (a.k.a: a whole lot of buckles.)

                                Glancing at Sebastian as if to officially confirm their evening plans before he spoke, the young man cautiously ventured: "You'll be home by around seven, as per usual, right, Andrew?" Though, figuring that the other's best friend would know better how to phrase things, he left the rest of the explanation to the green-eyed man beside him.

                                I mean, it's not exactly like I can tell Andrew where we're going... Hopefully, though, the other male wouldn't make too much of a fuss over being excluded.
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→ Sebastian Ford & Andrew Walker

                                The group made their way to the embellished wooden table; neither Sebastian nor Andrew wasted much time before filling their plates with food and eating the delicious meal. The shorter male of the group glanced up when he was addressed and looked between his two roommates. "Yeah," he responded absently, wondering what the question was all about. Then he remembered Sebastian mentioning something earlier in the week about going out on Thursday. He wondered where they were going and what they would be doing, but opted that he didn't want to take any part in it. There was no way he'd go out somewhere with someone who looked like Ash; plus he was ten years younger. It was too weird.

                                "You two have fun," he mumbled as he quickly finished his plate of food and served himself some more.

                                Sebastian let out a quiet sigh, knowing what Andrew was thinking but he couldn't say anything about it. It would almost definitely better that he didn't want to go, anyways, even if Sebastian didn't know where exactly they were going. He took his time with eating his own food and by the time he and Ash were done, Andrew was already leaving the house.

                                "I guess it's just me and you," he stated with a little shrug. "By the way, where did you want to go?"
→ Ash

                                What, got something you want to say to me, a*****e? Ash mentally challenged the other as soon as he'd turned around, glaring darkly at the back of his head. I can't stand your kind. Shaking his head subtly, he exhaled heavily through his nose, trying to remain as calm as possible; if he could do away with any one thing in the world, intolerance certainly made it to the very top of his list.

                                "And I'm thinking I like it better that way," Came the raven haired youth's quick response, albeit he was just as quick to tack a quiet "no offense," to the end of that statement. However, instead of directly answering the following question, at first, he merely flashed that same knowing smirk at Sebastian and casually stirred what little was left of his tea in an effort to let it sink into the older man's psyche before he spoke.

                                "Just out for a drink," His tone remained as equally nonchalant, yet his smirk widened as he delivered his punch line: "and, who knows—maybe I'll serenade you with a little something if I get drunk enough." Even though he laughed at the seemingly joking prospect, he was hardly kidding: given the right mood, and the right amount of alcohol in his system, Asher was bound to get up on a table or even the bar itself that night, belting out the first song that came to mind.

                                "That okay with you?" A bit of a rhetorical question, but still teasing, of course, with the shadow of that smirk still playing upon his lips.

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