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His nails bite into his palms, knuckles white and bloodless. Self-control, abba—dad had taken to hammering that into his head lately, the closer he crept to thirteen, each day he left behind as a boy in his formal journey to 'manhood' which never genuinely meant anything to him, beyond lessons and boredom and prayer services and new responsibilities he wanted nothing to do with because on top of the grievances puberty had begun to layer upon his bony awkward shoulders now he had to skip out on normal after school kid stuff to study the torah while also considering his father's slow transition from absentee to hypocrite because they didn't even practice why did he care so much what grandpa thought he wasn't even living in the states anymore—but seriously, self-control. A man exhibits self-control in all things, even internal monologues.
"—not that 'Toxic' isn't awesome, but what kind of moron ranks it above 'Baby One More Time'? What kind of..."
There's a pause, a ponderous rattle of breath being caught and held, an oily smile filling in the blank space as Asher's short nails dig deeper and crescents of blood well to the surface of his palms. He waits in anticipation, willing his resolve into something that doesn't resemble a teetering pile of flimsy cardboard boxes. Waits for the newest crude epithet to roll off of his adversary's tongue into the air between them. Waits for a chance to prove to himself he's more a man than he was two days ago, two bruised ribs ago.
"...guess I shouldn't be surprised. Can't expect the kid of some raghead to understand American pop c—"
The tiny bird-like bones in his fist feel like they're splintering, infinitesimally, against the heavily insulated bulk of the older boy's face, bouncing and skimming off of his teeth. His hand comes away bloodier, most of it his, incisors shredding the thin delicate skin of his knuckles but he doesn't pause to let his opponent catch his breath, reorient himself, spit the mixture of saliva and blood rolling around in his mouth onto the warm asphalt before he's on him, adrenaline and white hot fury propelling him forward.

Later, sitting in the open back of an ambulance, eyes averted from Daniel Bassevi's cool unreadable stare and the medic concentrating on the symmetrical line of stitches piecing his forehead back together, he wonders if it would matter at all that it was in defense of his father that the tenuous internal leash on his burgeoning temper had slipped through his fingers so easily.
"I mean it, it's okay."
He's mortified. It has to be written all over his face, the way she's looking at him like that. Like he's a spooked horse in need of soothing or a kid teetering on the verge of tears. She reaches over and touches his wrist, stroking the smooth skin of the underside, feeling his rabbiting pulse as it gradually fades into something less post-orgasmic, more utterly humiliated. He supposes he should be grateful she hadn't laughed, flipped her sun-bleached hair over her shoulder and tittered something demeaning about prematurity and that this is what she got, for slumming it with high school kids.

He isn't grateful. At all. Her pity leeches in through each point of contact, their hips, their tangle of legs, her chin tucked inside the curve of his neck and her lips brushing against his jaw with each murmured reassurance and intermingled kiss for punctuation and emphasis. It settles like a weight in the pit of his stomach and chases away any lingering feelings of pleasure and satiety like a bucket of ice water. As close as they are he feels the sheen of sweat on her skin as it cools to a tepid sticky manifestation of her disappointment, of the build of anticipation abruptly cut off and left floundering.

An hour ago, they meet. Two idle souls hoping to take advantage of an offshore wind and an isolated beach at dusk. He's there a grand total of five minutes before determining the waves are shit, the swell is better suited for babies on bodyboards than someone of his esteemed caliber, and he makes for his car—an older jeep wrangler, because it couldn't be anything else—when she gravitates toward him, longboard under arm, seemingly unbothered by its weight and ridiculous size.

Thirty minutes ago, she tilts her head and smiles in that universally understood sort of way that has him trailing off mid-sentence, eyes wide, breath quickening. She takes his hand without preamble, coaxes him to stand, and leans in to deliver a succinct promise to his stunned unresponsive mouth, ends it with a hint of teeth before his brain can reboot itself. He blinks back to life and she's yards away up the beach, laughter carrying downwind on the salty sea breeze. "Chase me!" she yells, demands, as he watches her like an idiot contending with the treacherous instability of running in dry dunes of sand. He hastens after her, unsteady and overeager when he realizes her destination is the empty lifeguard shack further up the beach.

Twenty minutes ago, he's sublimely grateful there are only zippers to struggle with and not a single bra clasp in sight.

Ten minutes ago, he's regretting the disruption in his teenaged boy routine. Usually he rewards himself for finishing his homework the same way he rewards himself for getting up every morning. Nine times out of ten, in the shower. Tonight, he went another way and drove to the beach. Doing both would've made all the difference.

Thirty seconds ago, her arms wrap around him in a pointedly consoling gesture, and he begins to lament his lack of self-control.
"...and if you don't stop cracking jokes about buying you dinner first, I can and will sedate—no, paralyze you against your will."
Asher closes his mouth, biting back a yelp as surgical tweezers dig in with punctuated viciousness and, miraculously, it's only another fifteen seconds max before his wince skews back into playful leer territory. "'m just saying, I'm easy, but not this easy—ow." A splinter of rotting wood lands on the steel tray to his left, joining a pile that only promises to grow if the sharp, unpleasant throbbing of his entire fucking body is any indication. His doctor, a sour-faced female resident that reminds him jarringly of his father in smudged mascara, wilting updo and oversized scrubs, isn't making any of this easy on him and he pauses in his harmless antagonizing to wish it was Jordan scrupulously picking splinters out of his lower back, ass, and thighs. Because. Well. Better looking, for one. More receptive, for two. Just as likely to come at him with syringes full of questionable drugs and extra large needles but hey, nobody's perfect and Asher—at this point, a good twenty splinters in and bored out of his mind and letting his mouth run wild and free—Asher probably, no, definitely deserves it.

Unfortunately, it wasn't Jordan's face looming over him when he regained consciousness in the chaotic noisy din of the Massachusetts General Hospital emergency room. Not unless she'd taken the weirdness of that week in stride and transformed into an enormous asian man who looked down at him in a calm assessing sort of way that spoke of way too much experience examining people who'd done stupid shit to themselves. Ash had felt absurdly like he'd disappointed the man, failing to get into a fight with a lawnmower or impale himself on a fence post or blow off one of his limbs with a poorly constructed firework. "Sorry," he'd wheezed, and the man's eyes rose from his lower half to meet his, a shade more amused than indifferent, and then he'd launched into some speech about where he was, how they'd be taking good care of him, that he was a dumbass for roof jumping or whatever the fuck he'd been doing, that they'd already contacted his emergency number on file and the good drugs were on the way. And his name was Jiang—but everybody called him Dave—and he'd be the nurse stuck with his failed Darwin Award achieving ass. Asher had decided he really liked Nurse Dave before passing out again.

And when he woke up a second time, it was to doctor hardass and her tweezers and muttered explanations about him basically being fine, with a mild concussion and a shitload of splinters and not much else, they'd be keeping him overnight and letting him go in the morning now lie back and think of england (paraphrasing.)

Asher lapses into a contemplative silence after splinter number 22, likely to the great relief of the doctor, and the universe at large. He can't really recall why he'd been… where he'd been, Dave had spoken vaguely about paramedics finding him in some rickety old warehouse somewhere beneath an obvious dude-sized hole in the roof and didn't have any other details aside from that he must've fallen through a pile of rotting old pallets on the way down. The way down. He squints, grasping at fragments of memories entirely unwilling to be pieced back together. He remembers… air on his face. Cold air. He remembers being thrilled about that, but he gets facefulls of Boston smog on the daily whenever he rides his bike without a helmet (all the time) so that vague sense of elation doesn't quite jive. What else?

He jolts at the sensation of a gruesomely large splinter sliding out of his left thigh, almost but not quite unbalancing himself off the stretcher but it has side rails to impede him so really he just ends up making his concussion slightly worse. The doctor and her malicious tweezers continue, undeterred, and he tucks his face into the nest of his crossed arms grateful he doesn't have any dignity to concern himself over and resumes his thinking. Something bird-shaped sticks in his mind, the cawing of a gull and the feeling of panic and that sinking sensation you get on a plane when it's starting to land like you're free falling and… what? What? Fuck, it's right there on the periphery of his mind, like he can skim it with his fingertips but it won't be coaxed any closer no matter how desperately he reaches for it. He realizes he's getting agitated beyond the boundaries of his muddled brain when a gloved hand pats reassuringly at his flank, and someone behind him intones that it won't be much longer, now, just a few more pieces, some disinfectant, some bandaids, and he'd be all set.

'Some' bandaids ends up being an understatement, but at least Dave acquiesces to his request for the colorful children's variety instead of the standard flesh colored and boring. After, he's accepting a change of clothes from his long-suffering uncle—who's done this dance enough times he probably has a closet of hospital 'to go' bags packed and ready and organized by size and color and predicted length of stay. As he dresses and silently endures lecture #2342 about personal responsibility, Asher wonders if whatever he'd done, however he'd done it, any of it up to the gnarly crash and burn could be duplicated. Because that fraction of a second he does remember? It's the happiest, most exhilarating fraction of a second he's ever experienced—he knows that much with absolute clarity.
"—too much to ask for, a little self-control? Roof jumping, really, Asher, that's what I'm going to have to tell your mother, and when she bursts into tears and hysterics, I'm handing the phone over—"
Disappointing someone. He supposes that rounds out his latest lapse in good judgment perfectly.