When Haru’s parents leave him alone for the first time, he’s seven years old. His grandmother comes to stay with him and that’s almost enough to curb the pang of loneliness in his heart. But he’s supposed to be a big boy and big boys don’t feel upset that their parents have business trips in Okinawa.
So when his mother crouches down in front of him coat all buttoned up, she tilts his chin up to look at her, expression soft, “Haruka, we’ll be back soon okay?”
Big eyes stare back into her own, “Mm.”
His mother frowns slightly, a sad shadow on her face before she suddenly breaks into a smile, “I know.” She says, sliding her ring off her finger.
It’s her favourite ring. A simple silver band with three little blue stones clustered in the centre. It was a gift from her own mother, now standing behind Haru.
She takes Haru’s hand, turning it over so she can place the ring gently within his palm, closing his fingers around it. “You can keep my ring with you while I’m gone and it will be like I’m here with you, okay?”
Haru doesn’t really get it. A ring is a ring and a person is a person. But he unclenches his fist and the ring seems to glow with a gentle kind of love and his grasp around it tightens. “Okay.” He says, after a while, “But I don’t know how long I want to keep it.”
His mother smiles and kisses him on his brow, “Only four days Haru-chan.”
And then they’re gone.
And they’ll keep being gone for longer than his mother said. And when they return, it will only be to leave again and again until they’re gone for so long it feels like for good. But for now, this is the first, and Haru feels every bit of it.
“Come now Haruka, let’s find a chain for your ring so you don’t lose it.” His grandma holds out her hand, smile warm.
Haru takes it and tries to feel alright.
Later, when it’s after lunch, there’s a knock on his door and Haru opens it to find a grinning Makoto, smile even more endearing with his missing teeth. “Haru-chan! Let’s go to the park!” He beams, fists clenched in excitement.
Haru glances behind him, “We have to ask Oba-chan.”
Not put out in the slightest, Makoto kicks off his shoes before doubling back and arranging them neatly against the wall, grabbing Haru’s hand. “Oba-chan!” He cries, turning the corner into the living room to find her knitting quietly to herself.
“Makoto!” she greets, eyes crinkling fondly, “Look how much bigger you’ve gotten since I’ve been gone.”
Makoto blushes, rolling almost inwards, “Have I?” He laughs awkwardly, before Haru squeezes his hand.
“Ah!” He rubs the back of his neck, a nervous habit since before Haru can remember, “Sorry Haru-chan.” His eyes droop helplessly, “Oba-chan, is it okay if we go play in the park?”
Grandma Nanase smiles softly at their joined hands before nodding, “But not for long. I want you back long before dark.”
“Okay! We’ll be back for sure.” Makoto smiles that sweet smile again before he’s off, tugging Haru behind him.
It’s only when their faces are scrunched in concentration trying to build the tallest sandcastle ever ever that Makoto notices the ring. And really, Haru loves everything about him but Makoto was utterly unobservant (except when it came to feelings). But it was okay because Haru could see for Makoto and Makoto could feel for Haru and they’d be just fine.
“Woowwww! Pretty!” Makoto’s eyes light up, fingers reaching out to touch it.
Haru stiffens, hand moving almost imperceptibly to cover up his treasure until Makoto’s fingers brush his chest and the tension disappears like it had never been there at all. Haru sighs. Stupid. It’s Makoto after all.
Makoto turns the ring over in his fingers, looking oddly serious, “Haru-chan, are you married?” he asks, looking caught between a pout and a frown.
Makoto gestures to the ring, “It looks like a wedding ring.”
Haru’s brows furrow, “Wedding rings have diamonds.” He says, like that’s the most obvious thing in the world.
“And of course I’m not married. Who would I be married to?” Haru asks like it was stupid even to have thought it.
Makoto laughs, looking almost relieved, “Anyone would be lucky to marry Haru-chan.” He says seriously, “But I’m happy you didn’t! Because I’d be sad if I wasn’t at Haru-chan’s wedding.”
Haru makes a face, poking him in the cheek so that Makoto pouts, “Idiot. Of course you’d be there.”
The sun bursts through a cloud right as Makoto smiles and Haru knows it’s impossible but he can feel the warmth from his joy just as surely as he can feel the sunrays on his face. Makoto’s smile is bright enough that all of the loneliness Haru felt in his heart hours before melts away until nothing is left but a tender togetherness that makes Haru feel like he’ll never be alone.
They speed down the slides and go as high as they can go on the swings and then run through the open field playing tag until they’re so out of breath they collapse onto the grass panting. Haru’s flushed, lips pulled in a half smile and he’s so happy he’s genuinely worried his heart might burst until he feels for his mother’s ring only to discover that it isn’t there.
His heart plunges into ice. He shoots up quickly, reaching all around under his shirt frantically, fingers trembling.
“Haru-chan?” Makoto’s worried, the slant in his eyes a big enough tell without his voice wobbling like that.
“Oka-san’s ring.” He can barely say. He’s pulled off his shirt, shaking it as though the ring would magically fall out. He looks helplessly at Makoto, something like failure and defeat and crushing hopelessness welling inside of him until it hardens into lead and he’s crushed by the weight of it. “I can’t find it.”
Makoto’s eyes widen, and instinctively, his hands reach around his own neck and into his pockets as though he could have possibly taken it. When that turns up empty, he turns to Haru only to find him with his head buried between his knees, arms curled around himself tight. Makoto’s entire heart squeezes. Haru’s never been upset like this before. Not ever.
Haru keeps his head buried, can’t find the strength to lift it up. He hears the crunch of grass beneath Makoto’s feet and feels it when he crouches in front of him. “Haru-chan,” Makoto says, with more determination than Haru’s ever heard him use, “it’s okay. I’ll find your ring for you.” He squeezes Haru’s knee, grip firm, “I promise.”
Haru looks up, just the slightest bit, just enough for Makoto to see his pained eyes. Makoto’s expression softens and he bends down, placing a soft kiss on Haru’s brow.
Haru’s eyes widen, his finger reaching up to touch the spot before Makoto spins around, running back to the park. Haru stays on the grass, wondering why Makoto’s kiss felt so different than his mother’s when it was in the same spot.
He watches as Makoto digs through the sand where they were building their castle, mouth pinched in concentration. He spreads his fingers across like a net, dragging through the sand, even with all its twigs and rocks.
Haru feels the weight of his loss still unbearably heavy inside him- so big that it keeps him from being able to do anything about it. But watching Makoto confront his own problems for him gives him the strength to stand until they’re both searching the playground, scanning every inch of ground for their missing treasure.
Haru’s just about ready to give up. They’ve given it their all and they’ve checked every single place when Makoto shouts and, in his hand, a ring that glitters in the dying rays of the sun. Haru can’t help but stare, at Makoto’s ridiculously keen expression, at the chain that’s blowing a little in the breeze, and at the ring that he’s so utterly fantastically grateful to have back.
“It must have fallen off when we were on the swing.” Makoto explains, pointing at where he found it a few metres behind the swing set, “We maybe shouldn’t have gone so high.” He says sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck again.
But Haru doesn’t want him making excuses for things that weren’t his fault. And he’s the one who found it at the end of the day. And ultimately, he really isn’t that great with expressing himself and doesn’t really know how to try so he starts with something basic and hopes that Makoto can read between the lines.
“Thank you.” And behind his throat a thousand words swirl and fall back into his heart.
But Makoto must hear them, because he drapes the chain over Haru’s neck and says, “Of course, this is Haru-chan’s precious necklace after all.”
And Haru really doesn’t know what to say to that, so he just takes Makoto’s hand in his right and clutches the ring with his left and decides that when his mother comes, she can have her ring back forever. He doesn’t need it anymore.
When they’re nine, the pond calls the two of them like a siren-song. It’s incredibly beautiful today, the water shallow and teal with smooth rocks all along the earth. The sun trickles through the leaves and neither of them waste any time diving in. It’s shallow enough that it only goes up to their necks but they still find it as fun as ever to wade around and dive for shiny stones.
They float on their backs aimlessly, just content to melt into the scenery. There’s a soft smile on Makoto’s face as he drifts across the water and when Haru sees it, he feels like there’s something precious in this moment, something he’ll want to cherish later, but doesn’t know when.
Eventually, even just floating gets a little too tiring for Makoto and he pushes himself upright in the water, looking around for Haru only to see him still wading through happily. Shaking his head slightly, Makoto swims out to the shore, shaking his hair of the water and spreading out the beach towel he had brought onto the grassy bank. He lies down on his stomach, setting his head between the nook of his arms so that he can still watch Haru glide through the water.
He almost looks like a mermaid.
The thought makes him laugh suddenly and it’s so disruptive in the quiet that Haru actually starts, whipping around to give him a half-hearted glare, “Ahh, sorry Haru-chan.” Makoto laughs, sounding not that sorry at all, “It’s just, your swimming was really pretty just now.”
Haru gives him that all too familiar look of what are you even talking about, before he ducks his head so that Makoto can’t see how pleased he secretly is- as if they both don’t already know he can tell.
“You always say such weird things.” Haru mumbles, water just at his chin.
Makoto’s brows slant, “I can’t help it! It’s true! You looked almost like a mermaid.”
Haru purses his lips, contemplating it for a moment, “I’m okay with that. Then I’d get to be in the water forever.”
Makoto frowns, “But if you live in the water then we can’t play together all the time.”
Haru considers this, swimming closer so that they’re face to face, Makoto on the grass and Haru right at the shore. Haru has to tilt his chin up to look Makoto in the eye. “If I was a mermaid then right here is the only place we could meet.”
“But what if we’re hungry?”
“Then you’d have to go bring me snacks. And mackerel.” He adds as an afterthought.
Makoto frowns again before he suddenly snickers, “If I control Haru-chan’s eating habits, then I just won’t bring you mackerel. You’ll have to eat other things.”
Haru frowns and Makoto laughs at him, his shoulders shaking. Suddenly, Haru’s aware of just how close they are, so close he can see the summer’s freckles scattered across Makoto’s face and each individual lash that framed his eyes. “Okay,” Makoto announces, “if you want to live as a mermaid I’ll help you. But no mackerel.” And because he’s secretly evil and conniving and knows exactly how to push Haru’s buttons, Makoto leans over and kisses Haru right on his forehead.
Predictably, his brain short circuits and he sputters as Makoto pretends to pack up and leave, bemoaning how his best friend in the whole world has decided to live a mackerel-less existence when they both know the threat is enough to pull Haru out of the water and running to their lunch box to make sure Makoto doesn’t steal his.
They’re ten when Makoto sees the sign for the Iwatobi Swim Club and gets something like sparkles in his eyes. Haru genuinely doesn’t know what inspired Makoto so much about it, but he does know how excited Makoto is when he pulls at his hands imploringly, “Haru-chan! Let’s join the swim club!”
And Haru might still be an elementary schooler, but he definitely knows that life is way too tiring for that kind of nonsense and he says so. Typically, Makoto’s expression doesn’t fall, he just keeps holding onto Haru’s hands like that’ll be enough to convince him.
A small, very very small part of Haru wonders if maybe that’s all it really takes.
“Haru-chan, come on! It’ll be fun! We’ll get to swim together whenever we want and we can learn new strokes and maybe even do a competition.”
That sounds all the more exhausting and Haru hopes if he’s just quiet enough Makoto will go away. Well, not go away. But drop the subject.
“Troublesome.” Is all he says.
At Haru’s verbalized distaste, Makoto’s smile droops. He looks just about crushed enough for Haru to take back what he said but then he thinks about how much work joining a club is and- “You can still go.” He says, by means of a compromise, but Makoto looks so scandalized at the idea he practically wants to take it back.
“I don’t want to go without you! I want to swim with Haru-chan. Otherwise, there’s no point.” He says softly and Haru’s feeling that feeling again.
The one where he feels so warm he can barely breathe and his heart feels like someone’s holding it preciously, cradling it between their palms. And ah, he thinks.
He gets it now.
And really he should have known, because it’s so like Makoto to pick something Haru likes to find more ways to spend time with him. And he’s an idiot, because Haru would swim with Makoto whenever he wanted, so he really doesn’t understand why they have to do it in a club where there are rules and other people, but Makoto really wants to do it.
And whatever Makoto wants, he gets- he so rarely asks for anything Haru can’t even help it.
“Okay.” He says finally.
Makoto blinks, “What?”
Haru frowns, looking pointedly away, “I said okay. I’ll join.”
And just like that, Makoto’s alight again and his eyes are glittering and Haru really doesn’t understand how someone like him can make someone like that so happy. He really doesn’t get it. But suddenly Makoto’s kissing his cheeky sloppily and happily and Haru forgets everything he’s thinking.
“I’m so happy! We’re gonna have fun Haru-chan! I promise!”
And Makoto’s already tugged them forward so they can walk back home, blathering on about the swim club and all the cool events but Haru’s just focused on the heat around his cheeks. Makoto’s always doing that, kissing him out of the blue. Never for any good reason either. Haru glances at Makoto from the corner of his eye. But…for now, maybe it’s okay.
On their first day, the whole team is in awe of Haru’s swimming, but when he bobs his head up, he sees Makoto looking at him like he’s his entire pride and joy and Haru knows nothing else anyone will ever say will ever matter quite as much.
Haru’s never swam for any particular reason. He swims because he wants to and that’s that. But now he’s part of a team and he has friends- well, he’s always had Makoto, but Makoto is Makoto and he’d always be there- and now swimming is different. It’s exciting and thrilling and scary even, because there’s so much riding on it. All their hopes and hard work, even Rin’s dream.
They line up behind their starting block and Makoto jumps in, holding onto the bars with a hard determination Haru so rarely gets to see. He’s usually so acquiescing. So ready to sacrifice and give in. Happy to take something lesser if someone he loved could gain more.
Watching Makoto compete brought Haru a rare type of joy. It was a chance to see Makoto selfish. Someone powerful who knew it. Someone who knew their strokes were fierce and their strength intimidating and whose kicks got him to the finish line first, before anyone else. Swimming was the one place Makoto wasn’t afraid to win in. The one place he would actually fight to gain something purely just for himself.
And now, with a relay on the line, with all his friends counting on him, Haru knew he’d be absolutely incredible.
And he’s right.
Makoto collides into the pool wall and Nagisa soars above him. When Makoto gets out, Haru stands close to him, close enough so that no one will notice how he squeezes Makoto’s hand, quick and firm. That says all he needs to and a shy smile blooms across Makoto’s face.
It’s Haru’s turn on the block, he leans into the starting pose, waits for Rin, and then he soars.
When he reaches the end, it’s to Makoto’s ever-stretched hand and his soppy expression and so much adoration in his eyes Haru almost falters. “Haru-chan!” Makoto looks so happy he could glow, “We won!”
And quieter, for only them to hear, “You were incredible.”
And he’s pulling Haru out of the water in one movement like it’s easy and he’s suddenly in Makoto’s arms and there’s a kiss pressed on his neck right below his ear like Makoto just couldn’t contain it before suddenly Nagisa and Rin have swarmed them too and they’re all just laughing, dizzy on the high.
Everyone congratulates him on his speed and his grace and his entire performance but somehow none of those affirmations feel nearly as good as that misplaced kiss bursting with pride.
They start walking to school and back when they’re in middle school. It feels weirdly grown-up and yet oddly like nothing’s changed at all. And perhaps they haven’t. They’re still Makoto and Haru, doing everything else together, so why not this too.
It’s hot today, and Haru’s pulling at the cuff of his shirt uncomfortably, enough for Makoto to notice and ask him to wait in the shade for a minute while he goes into the convenience store. He comes back out with a double popsicle, soda flavoured- Haru’s favourite. Makoto looks apologetic, rubbing the back of his neck, “Sorry Haru-chan, they ran out of singles.”
His response is instinctive at this point, “Drop the chan.” He says, before taking the snapped half Makoto offers him, “It’s fine. A whole popsicle’s too much anyway.”
Which isn’t really even true. It’s just flavoured water really. How much is too much. But it perks Makoto right up and from then on, he always buys a double, split between the two of them. And Haru doesn’t mind, because there’s something nice about sharing anyway. So he sticks with the lie, even though it doesn’t matter anymore.
No, the weirdest change from elementary school to middle school isn’t the walking home or the popsicles, but the way Makoto says goodbye to him on the steps. Haru loiters around Makoto’s house, his popsicle just about finished. Makoto takes the stick from him, intending on throwing it in the trash outside when he smiles, “See you tomorrow Haru-chan.” Before he kisses him goodbye, write on the corner of his mouth.
Haru stands still- gobsmacked- while Makoto waves cheerily before heading inside. Inside his brain, circuitry sets aflame only to cool and then burst into flames again. He can’t form a single coherent thought and thinks that this is really no good because he’s going to lose all his brain cells at this point if this keeps up. But he’s sure it won’t.
And yet Haru’s never once thought to ask Makoto to stop.
It was naïve perhaps, to think that Haru could never feel any worse than when he lost his mother’s ring. But unlike before, there’s no crushing weight that anchors his soul to the core of the earth. There’s just nothing.
Haru’s twelve when his heart breaks.
He’s empty everywhere he looks. Like all of his happy memories had disappeared. Like all his sad memories had never existed. There’s only the aftertaste of regret and a lack of understanding over what went wrong and still, resounding louder than anything else, an all-consuming sense of guilt that cripples him to his knees.
He knows his mother’s worried about him. It’s been two days of him staying curled in a ball on his bed wondering why he was terrible. Why all he did was hurt people. Why he could never express what he wanted when it mattered most.
He hears his door open, “I’m not hungry.” His voice is hoarse, but he knows if he speaks first, his mother will go away.
And the softness of that voice, his name laced with sadness makes Haru’s heart squeeze more and he shrinks as though he could ever hide from Makoto.
Makoto is perfect, Haru thinks. The opposite of Haru, in every best way. Because while he might praise Haru for his talent and his lack of cowardice and his level-headedness, Haru knows that Makoto would never hurt a friend the way Haru did. And that Makoto knows how to make people feel what he feels, so that there won’t be misunderstandings anymore.
And he is perfect, because he just sits on the bed, just pressed up to Haru’s back and says, “It’s okay. You don’t have to say anything Haru-chan. I’m here.” And Haru clings to the certainty in Makoto’s voice like it’s the only thing that can ground him.
His eyes clench and his grip around the blanket tightens. He wonders what Makoto’s expression looks like. But he doesn’t have the strength to look. So he lies on his bed and listens to Makoto’s breathing until enough time passes that Haru can turn around and look at him with lost eyes.
“I saw Rin.” He says quietly, like every word aches.
Makoto’s eyes widen, but he tries to contain the plethora of questions Haru can see bursting inside him. “Did something happen?” He asks instead.
Because Makoto is perfect. And he is not.
Haru’s eyes drop and for some reason, a feeling of shame surges through him. Makoto sits patiently next to him, reaching for Haru’s hand and squeezing it. It’s small, almost insignificant, but Haru grips back tight.
“And you won.” Makoto says, like he can already piece together the story.
“Yeah.” He whispers.
“Was Rin mad?” Makoto frowns.
Haru flinches and he can’t say what happened just yet. He just can’t. It’s too much. So instead, he says what he knows now has to happen. Because he can’t bear to be in the water like they used to anymore. “I’m quitting swimming.”
He can’t bear to see the shock in Makoto’s eyes. The way his mouth will open and then close and then open while he tries to find the words. Makoto’s grip around his hand goes slack for just a second, just a moment, and Haru feels a fresh fear surge through him.
No. He can’t let go it’s- it’s- “Makoto-” and he hates how desperate that one word sounds slipping off his tongue but Makoto just smiles, that soft, gentle smile that Haru knows is for when he’s putting everyone else first.
“It’s okay Haru. We don’t have to compete anymore.”
“You don’t have to stop.” He says quietly, though a part of him doesn’t mean it.
And Makoto looks at him like this whole thing is just obvious, “It’s no fun without Haru-chan.”
And Haru feels his breath in his throat and knows that he’s selfish to always want Makoto beside him but Makoto loves swimming because Haru’s with him and even his guilt over Rin can’t ruin that for him.
“So it’s okay. We can go swimming ourselves, like in the river, the way we used to.” Makoto dives onto the bed, rolling over to pull Haru into an awkward hug and pressing a kiss on the top of his head, “So it’s okay Haru-chan. You’ll be alright. And I’ll take you to lots and lots of pools okay?”
And all Haru can do is wrap his fingers around Makoto’s wrists and hold them, fighting the urge to hide in Makoto’s chest until all the sad bits inside of him just went away. And he knows he should feel guilty, for taking Makoto away from the sport he loves with the team he loves. But Makoto loves Haru more than any of that, maybe even more than that. And Haru clings to that feeling desperately because otherwise-
Makoto strokes his hand, scattering his self-deprecation.
Sometimes, he feels like if Makoto wasn’t there tethering him to the earth, he would evaporate into the air and disappear.
They’re fourteen and Haru’s annoyed. It’s oddly freezing out. Except that it wasn’t supposed to be freezing and yet here they are, standing beneath a snowfall. Haru glares up at the sky as though he can will for it to part the clouds and reveal the sun. Predictably, the wind blows more snow into his face and he sputters while Makoto frets beside him.
“Haru-kaaa.” He whines, brushing the snow from his nose, “Why didn’t you bring your winter stuff like I said to.” He admonishes, fixing Haru with a stern look.
Haru looks pointedly away, refusing to admit that he’s cold even though his thick sweater is doing little to keep his fingers from turning pink and his lungs from filling with sharp air.
“You worry too much.” He says sullenly.
“And you don’t worry enough.” Makoto says, exasperated, before he tugs off his mittens.
Haru stares, “Makoto, stop, it’s-”
“Don’t say it’s fine Haru.” Makoto cuts him off- a rarity for him, so Haru lets him speak.
It’d be troublesome to interrupt anyway.
He’s too proud to take the mittens from Makoto himself and his friend knows it. Instead, Makoto gently lifts Haru’s hands and pulls his mittens over his fingers like he was holding something precious.
There it is again.
That look in Makoto’s eyes that carries so many familiar feelings and some Haru just doesn’t have the vocabulary to understand. Makoto squeezes Haru’s hands when he’s done and there’s a second where he just holds them, a moment in time before their routine continues. Haru thinks he’s holding his breath. He doesn’t understand why.
And then Makoto is letting go of his hands and unraveling his scarf from around his neck. Before Haru can protest, Makoto’s wrapping it around him, adjusting the fabric so that it goes just over Haru’s chin. “Haru-chan,” Makoto says softly, “don’t say you aren’t cold. Your nose is red.”
Well what’s he supposed to do about it, it’s biology. It’s the stupid wind. It’s the stupid snow. It’s-
Makoto laughs at his expression before he bends down, kissing him on his nose so sweetly Haru feels warm right down to his toes. Makoto leans back, admiring the blush all over Haru’s face with something almost teasing in his eye, “You look a lot warmer now.” He laughs again and Haru feels like he’s having a joke at his expense, but he genuinely can’t find a single atom inside him that cares.
And he looks at Makoto and wonders why he thinks Haru’s so precious that he should risk being cold when Haru’s the one who was irresponsible and now he’s affecting them both. And a part of him will always be a little resentful about this side of Makoto, the part of him that’s so willing to love everyone else over himself. Because he touches Haru like he’s cherished but Haru wonders if Makoto really knows just how much more Haru values him. So much that he can’t even express it. So much that he doesn’t even know how to try. So much that sometimes he feels inadequate just standing next to him when sometimes he feels like he doesn’t deserve to.
And like he can read his thoughts, Makoto tugs Haru along to finish their walk, “Don’t worry Haru-chan, I have my winter coat.” He grins, “Besides, I knew you’d forget, so I brought extras.” And he digs into his bag pulling out a whole other set of mitts and Haru can’t help but feel like he’d been duped.
“Hopefully next time you’ll remember so I don’t have to trick you.” Makoto teases.
Haru scowls, “Drop the chan.”
“Oops, sorry Haru.” And just like always, doesn’t sound sorry at all.
They’re sixteen and Makoto still kisses him goodbye at the steps and Haru sometimes dawdles if Makoto isn’t quick enough, though he hopes the other doesn’t really notice. It’s a habit now and Haru doesn’t like things out of routine.
Even if it’s kisses he still doesn’t really understand.
Things haven’t really changed, until one day they do, and Haru can sense it the moment Makoto walks into his bathroom to pull him out of the tub. There’s an odd sort of determination in the set of his shoulders, the tightness of his jaw. It’s not an intimidating focus, more curious than anything else.
Haru’s spent a good two hours soaking at this point. His hair’s practically dry already from just lying back on his towel pillow and feeling the water curl around his knees. Makoto strolls in and takes one look at him before sighing, “Haru.” He bemoans, as if this isn’t an everyday occurrence.
Haru refuses to apologize for himself and turns away.
Uncharacteristically, Makoto doesn’t hold out his hand right away, choosing to sit on the little wooden stool and pull out his phone. Haru figures this has something to do with working up the courage to say whatever it is he wanted to. “You won’t pay any attention to me otherwise, so let’s get the planning out of the way.” Makoto says instead.
So not what he actually wants to say then.
Haru raises a brow.
“The festival Haru, the festival.” Makoto chides, “We’re meeting up with the others tonight remember? But we’re deciding where to meet, I was thinking the pier would be nice. We could relax by the water a little and then go get food. What do you think?” He glances up and Haru can see how he’s distracted, just the slightest bit.
“Mm.” he says, dipping lower in the water so he can study Makoto more closely, trying to infer what Makoto’s trying hard to hide.
Makoto smiles, sends a quick text, and then stands in front of him, hand out-stretched like always. Haru watches him, still unsure over what’s going on but he reaches out only for Makoto to hold his hand, sliding his thumb up his palm so he can look at Haru’s hand, “So pruney Haru-chan.” He laughs.
Haru juts out his lip, “That’s the price you pay for being in the water.”
Makoto’s eyes crinkle in that fond way that has Haru feeling like every molecule inside of him is at attention. And Makoto takes a breath and Haru thinks, this is it, and-
Makoto’s kissing his fingers, softer than the brush of a butterfly wing, “It’s okay. I love Haru all the time.”
And Haru genuinely doesn’t even have time to blink before Makoto’s pulling him up and turning away without another glance, “Get dressed, I’ll wait for you downstairs!” and he’s out the bathroom door faster than Haru can reach out to grab him by the back of his shirt.
And Makoto always does that. He just- says things. Things that make his heart flip in hysterics and makes his cheeks burn and he just says things that rip apart their entire friendship right down to its core so that Haru remembers why exactly it is, that he cares so deeply. And for someone who doesn’t always find the words, the ease at which Makoto says them, with that permanent smile-
Haru stands in the bath water, hand unconsciously gripping the fingers Makoto kissed with a tenderness that leaves him just as confused as he is brimming with- with what? And everything is confusing and intertwined but instead of feeling afraid, he’s just…content. And he’s surprised that he isn’t spiraling, but only for a moment, be he remembers how he felt when Makoto touched his mother’s ring that day.
When he kissed him for the first time.
And Haru knows he’s just fine with not knowing. He’s okay with being a river, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding. To see where the current takes him because it’s Makoto and Makoto would never let him drown. And maybe Haru understands where the river opens to, an ocean so mighty that he’s almost a little daunted by the weight of all its feelings.
(If he’s honest, he knows exactly where this river leads)
But for now, he’s not ready to surge past just yet. And he remembers the absolute conviction in Makoto’s eyes and can’t help but snort. For someone so expressive, sometimes he can just never be direct. But that’s okay. Because that was Haru’s role to play and he thinks that’s what Makoto’s waiting for.
What he’s always waited for maybe.
And in the three years before he’d resolved his issues with Rin and finally rediscovered the part of himself that could love fully and openly, he had closed himself off. Almost entirely. And Makoto had stuck by him anyway, even when it meant losing other things that mattered.
It’s time for him to do better now isn’t it? Makoto deserves- he can hear the unmistakable sound of something crashing to the floor and Makoto’s yelp and frantic apologies to an inanimate object- and Haru presses his love back into his mouth because Makoto deserves everything.
And he’s never asked anything from anyone and so Haru will give him everything freely. The only way he knows how.
It takes him a whole year to find the courage. To know that he is ready for this. That he wants this just as much, if not more. It’s a year to the day. And just like last year, Makoto picks him up from his house to take him to pier to meet up with all their friends. Maybe Makoto senses something different this year just like Haru had before, because he doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary when they’re alone this time. Just looks at Haru with that soft, knowing smile and those patient eyes he appreciates so much.
The festival is beautiful and vibrant and colourful beyond compare. They stroll through the attractions, nibbling on whatever strikes their fancy and posing for Nagisa’s ridiculously frequent demands for a selfie.
Mostly, they blow all their money on games. Because of course they do. And it’s a particularly obnoxious game of throw the ball in the tub that has Rei particularly heated about physics and the properties of bouncy balls that has him absolutely feral. He launches the ball with a truly ridiculous level of accuracy unable to stop himself from pumping his fist and howling in victory. “YAAAAAY REI-CHAN!! That was so cool!!” Nagisa cheers, “Pick a prize! Pick a prize!!”
Rei rubs his chin, looking overly smug, “That was definitely cool. My throw was immaculate as always.” He brags, before throwing his head back and guffawing.
He turns to the stall-owner, analyzing all his wares meticulously before pointing at a plush octopus in an oddly bright orange colour. “That one please!”
Nagisa has stars in his eyes as Rei dramatically brandishes it towards him, “Nagisa-kun, you’re the one who like stuffed animals so you can have this to add to your collection.”
Eyes watering theatrically, Nagisa hurls himself at him, swinging around his neck in a loose hug, “REI-CHAN!”
Around them, the rest of their friends laugh, already moving on to the next game. “That Rei, showing us up.” Rin scowls, but there’s no heat in it.
“You’ve never been good at games.” Haru goads, smirking slightly at Rin’s fighting face.
“HUH? I’m better than you. Watch this!” He spins around, looking for something to stake his honour on when he sees the goldfish game. “Hah!” he cackles, pointing, “I’m going to catch a million fish.”
“There’s thirty in there at most.” Haru deadpans while Makoto holds his hands up.
“Come on Haru, let’s encourage him.”
“Yeah Haru.” Rin says petulantly, sticking out his tongue.
Haru’s relatively miffed at that but stays quiet enough as Rin’s given the little paddle before striking a pose and really just- attacking the water.
“You’re never going to get a fish like that.” Haru drawls.
“Shut UP!” Rin shouts, still heated in the moment.
“It’s okay Rin, just keep trying.” Makoto encourages gently, “Maybe you can try being more delicate though?”
Rin’s shoulders tense and then fall. His brows narrow in concentration and his paddle dives in the water to pull out- Haru kind of can’t help but be surprised- not one, but two fish.
Nagisa and Rei come to join them just as Rin’s whooping for joy, sliding them into a baggie of water and dancing around with his spoils. “See!” He crows, right in Haru’s face who’s determined not to look his way, “I caught two fish! I’m amazing!”
“Not a million though.” He mumbles under his breath and Rin narrows his eyes.
“Huh?? Do you know how hard it is to catch two in one go!”
“Hey, hey! What are you gonna do with them Rin-chan?” Nagisa asks, curious eyes peering from over his octopus pressed tightly to his chest.
Rin mulls that over for a little before holding out the bag to Makoto, “You’re the only one who could actually take care of these fish properly. So they’re for you.”
Makoto blinks in surprise, taking the fish like they’re a treasure, “That’s so sweet.” He smiles, and it’s so radiant Haru’s almost mad.
And then he glances at Haru for just a split second before he does something unforgiveable. Makoto smiles a little brighter, leans over, and kisses Rin on the cheek, “Thank you Rin.”
And Rin’s face is heating up faster than he can control it and Nagisa is giggling uncontrollably and Haru just- stares. The audacity.
Makoto, of course, isn’t looking at him. But there’s a little smile on his face that suggests that he knows exactly what Haru’s thinking and worse, is taking way too much pleasure in it.
“He didn’t even get that many fish.” Haru grumbles, “He didn’t need a thank you like that.” Haru clenches his jaw, turning to the merchant and handing him more change than needed.
Ignoring everyone else, Haru holds his paddle with an almost deadly kind of focus. He flies into the water, moving so fast that his splashes go everywhere but he doesn’t care because when he’s done, he holds up a much bigger bag with a whole four fish in there and he can’t help but smirk at Rin.
“Wahh! Haru-chan’s so good at it!” Nagisa praises while Rei nods beside him.
“Tch.” Rin crosses his arms, looking away, “It’s cheating if you’re half fish.”
But Haru doesn’t care about anything but that look on Makoto’s face. There’s a playful smile on his lips and his eyes are bright. He has the words for it now, for that shine that he never knew how to name. The shine he wasn’t ready to accept yet, didn’t have the ability to give back the way Makoto deserved.
But his heart is free from all of its burdens and he sees Makoto for who he is, wholly, and completely and he’s just surprised (but he shouldn’t be) at how patient his best friend has been with him all this time.
He holds out the fish, a small blush on his cheeks. “For you.”
“Wow.” Makoto looks like he’s biting back a laugh, “Four fish.”
“Four.” Haru nods.
“I guess that deserves a bigger thank you, right Haru-chan?”
Haru’s face heats up more and he can’t help but shoot his gaze down, “Drop the chan.” He says, instead of everything else he could say.
And this time, Makoto doesn’t hide his laugh and his fingers brush over Haru’s chin and for the first time, he kisses Haru on his lips and it’s just-
Makoto pulls away, eyes dopey and in love and Haru can’t help but throw himself in his arms and kiss him harder because Makoto’s kissed him all his life but kissing like this is better and he never wants to stop.
Around them, their friends go insane, Nagisa’s screaming for Rei to take photos and for Rin to get out of the way and that he’s called it. And Rin is yelling that he knew first and that they’re all a bunch of embarrassing weirdos but he’s kind of crying himself a little because he’s a romantic and Rei’s just trying to get the composition of his photo right and the most insane thing of all is Haru not caring one bit.
Because he’s in Makoto’s arms and he will never be lonely and he will make Makoto happy. So, so happy. Because he’s wonderful and kind and amazing and Haru will give him the world. And one day he’ll give him a ring more precious than his mother’s and he’ll make Makoto’s wish of being at Haru’s wedding true, standing right up at the alter with him.