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41 Enroute to Kure

Kei drove them back into Hiroshima where they were able to stock up on coal at a shipping depot in the warehouse district.

Eiji had been nervous the whole time Kei did business with dubious men in suits who talked-the-talk with brass attitudes, and gave him browsing looks here and there. He held in his emotions when one of them, looking fresh in a plaid brown suit and fedora, causally nodded at Kei's mention of giving his love to Nishigawa-sama.

The visit was fortunately quick.

After another brief stop at a grocer for a restock of food supplies, and allowing Tama to stretch her legs, they were on the road again.

They journeyed south, taking the roads that followed the coastal train line towards Kure.

Eiji felt nervous and excited about having the chance to stop there. When he had mentioned to Tyne that his mother in-law lived on the outskirts, Tyne was keen to break their journey and visit her. After they had fulfilled their orders of course. He felt his mind emptying out from all the ways he would greet Hinata's mother as he watched the countryside rush past him from the car window.

The others kept their pensive thoughts and the gentle lull of the car's cosiness.

"I'm sleepy." Sean yawned and dumped his head on Eiji's shoulder to use it as a pillow.

Eiji groaned at the feel of kitty-soft brown hair tickling the sides of his neck. He frowned, wondering if it had grown a bit since their first meeting back on the US escort carrier. His mind ran over how long it had been since their had entered the country. Probably couldn't be more than a month. It felt like he had been road-tripping with these men for a long time.

"Hmm. Didn't mention this before. you smell nice and sweet Eiji." Sean dreamily complimented Eiji, which earned him a whack to his crown and hard shoving to his sides.
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Sean wrapped his arms around Eiji's waist, thwarting the man's attempts to move him away to the other side of the back seat.

Eiji sighed, dropped his attempts and reluctantly allowed Sean to cuddle him like a teddy bear. The US Corporal was soon sound asleep on his shoulder.

"Clingy Yank." Eiji grumbled.

His mind wandered to moments of cuddle time with Hinata. Those memories of having his arms wrapped around the man's slender waist and taking in his sweet musky scent lulled his mind into sleep.


Eiji woke with a start and found himself shuffling about the car seat as Kei was doing his best to maintain control of the car that was skidding out of kilter.

The car screeched as it diverted off onto a muddy track. Fortunately, the weight of mud was able to slow the car's momentum and speed.

Kei slammed the brakes to make it stop.

Eiji's heart pumped with adrenaline; hands twitched with nerves and tension. He instinctively reached for his gun and realized he had none.

Sean had done the same and lowered his head into his hands, chanting some nonsense to calm his nerves and sporadic twitches around his arms.

Tyne had gone still, almost petrified. His hands coiled around a weapon at his hip that didn't exist.

Kei panted, feeling his heart racing with panic. He fumbled for the car door, awkwardly opened it and stumbled outside into the muddy track the car's tyres was lodged in.

"Shit!" He gulped as he nervously fumbled about his pants pocket for his cigarettes.

He leaned against the bonnet, taking in heavy drags to calm himself.

Tyne joined him, doing the same thing.

Eiji slowed his breathing, remembering his meditation training he had learned during archery days. A short while later, he was able to recollect his thoughts. He looked to Sean who was still mumbling nonsense.

"Hey." He tapped Sean's shoulder.

Sean raised his head. The clarity of his green eyes were murky with vulnerability. His lips trembled and expression was tight with fear.

"I didn't want to go to war. I had no choice. I..." Sean mumbled.

Eiji sighed, recalling a time when Hinata showed the same reactions. He had mumbled nonsensical worries when he had learned of his father's clientele walking and heavy business losses because of his relationship with Eiji. Back then the thing that made Hinata almost insane with guilt and stress was the one thing that stopped him.

"Sean. Look at me."

Sean shook his head. "Ray said I wasn't fit for war. He knew..."

"Look at me!" Eiji ordered Sean.

Sean obeyed, but be he was beyond flustered. His mind had spiralled into a pattern of thoughts, which was digging him deep into an emotional state. He wouldn't be able to recover from it quickly if Eiji didn't do something to break the pattern.

Letting out a sigh and groan, he grabbed Sean's head and pulled the man into a kiss.

Their kiss lasted for as long as Sean was able to calm down. It transitioned from a desperate press to a gentle tender feeling.

Sean pulled away and rested his head on Eiji's shoulder. His heart had calmed and mind became clear.

"Thank you Eiji. I feel better now. Although, the kiss was somewhat an unexpected shock therapy treatment. Isn't it usually a slap across the cheek?"

"You're hard headed; didn't think It would've gotten through to you." Eiji joked.

Sean chuckled. "Just like my Ray."

"Don't fall in love with me. I have Hinata." Eiji soberly reminded him.

"Wouldn't dream of it. Although, I did like our kiss," Sean said teasingly.

He yelped at the curt slap Eiji gave his cheek. Now he did the shock treatment.

"Hey guys!" Tyne said when he tapped on the window to draw their attention to them.

They stepped out of the car.

Tama woke from her sleep in the bag and hopped out too. Sniffing in the soft mud ground, smell of trees and musky scents of nature.

The men took scope of the mud track the car was on. It led into a meadow where child-sized stalks of rye and wild flowers ran wild up to the start of a belt of pine trees that formed a forest.

Eiji stepped around to the right back tire to where Tyne was standing with a frown towards it, he could see why. The tire was completely flat due to a heavy puncture.

Kei crouched low to inspect the damage and fished out a mangled rifle bullet. Nature wasn't responsible for this flat.

"Not good." Kei gulped as he held up the tiny mangled shell of metal before the men.

"You don't think your cover is blown?" Eiji whispered carefully to Tyne.

Tyne stepped back to glance around the quiet of the surrounding trees and meadow. The stillness unnerved him. A keen reminder they were still at war.

"I think we should assume it is so to be on the safe side."

"Or maybe you have enemies Kei?" Sean carefully stated another obvious.

Kei snarled in response.

"That's another likely scenario and probably the better of the two." Tyne agreed. "For now, it seems we're being observed from afar. We're going to need to hide the radio before we travel again."

The men got to work swapping the flat with the spare and mending it the best they could. Tyne grabbed the suitcase from the boot. The men spent some time refitting the back seats carefully, so the radio and its accessories could be hid underneath. They repacked the suit case with food and other travel items. Then pushed the car out of the mud, getting slightly dirty in the process.

"The tire's going to need to be replaced. I've re-treaded the best I could, but it's only roadworthy for about a mile." Sean soberly informed Tyne.

"A mile is good enough if needed." Tyne nodded.

Kei checked to ensure the engine and other parts of the car was functional before starting it up and carefully moving it out of the track.

They resumed their journey on the highway, unaware of a black sedan following them at a distance.