So following this post I made about Banana Fish's ending on tumblr, I felt very compelled to proceed to throw 'it was very sad and fitting' out the window and write a little something that I wished happened instead.
This idea literally hit me this morning, and now it's written and posted on the same day. I just want to say that I'm absolutely inspired by that gorgeous moment of Eiji pole vaulting over the wall. The animation of that is absolutely amazing and I love how they took that single panel in the manga and emphasized it to a significant, symbolic moment between Ash and Eiji that takes our breaths away ("He flew", "I envy you. You know how to fly").
Also, here's a wonderful fun fact that I learned today while researching about pole vaulting. "Pole vaulting, in its non-competitive form, has existed since the days of the ancient Greeks, when it was used to surmount obstacles such as enemy walls" and that's exactly what Eii did. Ugh, I love Banana Fish and Akimi Yoshida for writing it so much.
Also, many thanks to fellow fan Aori, who introduced me to Banana Fish, dragged me into this sob fest, and kindly looked over this fic for me.
Without further ado, enjoy!
A year after Ash takes Eiji up on his promise and goes to Japan with him, Eiji teaches Ash how to pole vault.
"Like this, just watch," he would say, right before he follows up with a demonstration, the entire world falling away for him as his eyes sharpen in concentration. Ash likes looking at him in those moments when Eiji holds the pole in his hands and breathes, narrowing Ash's world to only Eiji cutting a sharp figure even with his silly floppy hair that Ash is so ridiculously fond of and the crossbar down the runway.
Every time he starts running, Ash would find himself holding his breath without a fail, as Eiji cuts through the length of his chosen strides, drives the pole into the box, and then -
And then, he is flying.
Eiji would laugh and sheepishly rub the back of his head afterwards on the mat as Ash compliments him on his pole vaulting and helps him up.
"It's nothing. I've vaulted higher heights before my injury," he would say, and then his sheepish smile wouldn't turn sad these days so much as wistful.
"C'mon," Ash would say, slapping Eiji on the back and picking up the fallen pole. "How do you do this again?" and then Eiji would give him a soft knowing look before showing him.
And now Ash is in Eiji's place down the runway on the outdoor track, pole in his hands and the six feet elevated crossbar a few strides away from him. Ash has been practicing vaulting without the crossbar, has experimented with the length of the runway best for him, the material of the pole and its length, and now he is ready.
Ash holds the pole and breaths just as the Eiji in his memory always has, shoulders squared like a noble warrior prepared for anything, including the masochistic self-blaming bullshit that Ash had been chastising Eiji for even back in the States. Ash probably isn't cutting the same figure that Eiji is when he does this, but it's okay. He hasn't expected to since Eiji is different.
He takes a breath to prepare for the run, his mind simulating step-by-step the sequence of events that are to happen within seconds: the sprint down the runway with the pole at his waist, him planting the far end of the pole at the inner edge of the box as he approach, driving the knee of his right leg into the air and swinging his other leg up as the pole bends, moving his top arm in a pulling motion for additional height and turning his hips around the crossbar, pushing off of the pole at his maximum height, and then, the fall.
He takes another breath to steady himself and then realizes that he still hasn't moved. He is holding the pole correctly at the exact angle and height that Eiji has taught him to, but his limbs are locked tight like a statue frozen, time held still for it at the exact pose its sculptor has left it for optimal viewing.
Ash hesitates, not because he is afraid of failing or falling since he is used to that - not to mention he has already broken a few poles and has fallen while they were testing for a pole that would fit him best - but at the sudden doubt of Can I really fly? Can I really be free? that pierces through him faster than any bullet from a gun.
The year that he has been living with Eiji in Japan still feels like a dream to him, sometimes.
Ash startles as he becomes aware of a shout from the sideline. Eiji is waving at him, enthusiastic flailing arms and all. "You can do it, Ash!" he shouts, and the doubt in Ash vanishes like it has never been there.
Ash tosses a grin in Eiji's direction and resumes his initial stance, facing the crossbar a few strides away from him with narrowed eyes.
Watch over me, Eiji, he thinks and then runs, the familiar feeling of feet pushing against the ground, barely landing for even half a second before setting off again, the wind tugging back his ponytail because Eiji thinks it might be nice to have long hair and somehow ropes him into growing his hair out as well, the rush of anticipation and adrenaline in his veins that tugs a wild grin out of him. Watch me, Eiji.
He slams the pole exactly at the inner edge of the box, drives his right knee up into the air, and then he is rising.
And then he is falling.
Disappointment tugs at him, somewhere deep inside him that has dared to hope even when he knows he would fail, and then he remembers and falls into position, swinging his legs up just in time for the rise as the pole unbends.
He pulls with his arm and twist his hip like clockwork, Eiji's unexpected intensity and strictness when it came to pole vaulting paying off. Ash feels like he could do this in his sleep as he pushes off the pole, and for a second, Ash is at the top of the world.
The world slows for him then, and he notices the rustle of the leave, the pure blue of the sky, the near blinding light from the sun, his own heartbeat, the stillness of this one moment when there is nothing else in the world but him.
He is flying.
A smile crosses his face as Eiji's cheer breaks through the moment and then Ash is falling, hands near his chest and legs slightly raised, reaching for that single breathless moment again, something once again out of his reach.
Ash lands against the mat, allowing his back to take the impact, and something like resignation drums at his heart as he notices that his view of the pure blue sky and bright sun is not nearly as blinding from this height.
Eiji's face fills Ash's vision. His grin is blinding, breathtaking in its own unique way that screams Okumura Eiji. "You did it!"
Eiji throws himself at Ash and Ash's arms comes up to catch him, instinctive like clockwork, because there is no world, no scenario, where Ash would ever let Eiji fall.
"I did it," Ash confirms and press his smile against Eiji's cheek.
You helped me do it, Ash doesn't say, because Eiji already knows.
Eiji will always be Ash's single moment above the crossbar.
My description of step-by-step pole vaulting is from wikihow's page on pole vault. The moments where Ash is thinking about all the steps of pole vaulting, I copied and pasted it all almost verbatim and only changed the pronoun from 'you' to 'he', since I was afraid of misinterpreting the actions.
I also stared at the animation made to show the interplay of kinetic and potential energy of pole vaulting few dozen of times after reading up on it entertainment howstuffworks.
Sorry that I can't provide links on FFN. If you want links to any of the things I mentioned here, find this fic on ao3, where I did manage to provide links.
Thanks for reading!