Haru stared up at the night sky as he walked rather quickly. In the back of his mind, he kept berating himself that he was just being stupid and overreacting. But he still had that lump in the pit of his stomach that made him want to double check. Despite it has been years since his time in high school, Haru suddenly wanted to firmly check.
Despite the rather late hour, people still wandered the streets of Paris. The lights reflected off the small puddles filling the cracks in the sidewalk and the air was hazy still from the rain earlier that evening. He tucked his hands deeper into the pockets of his hoodie. The rain made it cooler than he thought and he regretted not grabbing a light jacket to block out the breeze when he dashed out the door. Frowning to himself, Haru huffed. This wasn’t like him. If he asked Makoto for advice, his long time friend would have reassured Haru that he was indeed imagining things and it would have been better to not stress over something that he knew wasn’t true. Then again, Haru would probably still ignore Makoto in favor of going with what his instincts told him. Which was to double check.
Slowly, Haru's steps faltered until he was still. If he closed his eyes, he could still see the nightmare play over and over, in different variations now with his imagination coming up with scenarios and dredging up old memories.
He was in the locker room. A figure was to his side, but he couldn’t make out any details. But Haru had the impression it was Rin next to him. But unlike the man he knew now, Rin was back to his high school age, his black baseball hat pushed down, casting his face in shadow.
Tentatively, Haru reached out his hand, Rin’s name on the tip of his tongue. Then the ground rushed out from beneath him, blinding white light filled his vision.
Blinking rapidly, Haru looked around. He was on the starting block, but the pool in front of him was dark, fathomless as the ocean. Rin was swimming in the lane next to Haru’s, he was nearing the opposite wall.
A small bubble of warmth filled Haru, a smile too small to notice on his lips. Rin was there. He was all right. Watching Rin’s arms cut through the water, more graceful than Haru remembered, Haru fell into his diving stance. Maybe now was the chance to swim with Rin and mess around with his routine.
Looking back up from the dark water to Rin, Haru froze.
Where was he? The water was impossibly still, not a single splash or wave to indicate someone was swimming just then.
Panic began to fill Haru. Without further thought, Haru dove into the water. Under the water, drifting down to the bottom was Rin, his body limp. Did he have a muscle cramp and couldn’t swim anymore? Quickly, Haru dragged his arms through the water, kicking his legs with all his might, becoming a speeding bullet underwater as he swam to Rin. Wrapping his arm around Rin’s torso, Haru pushed off the pool floor and dragged them both up to the surface.
But no matter how hard he swam, the light above the water never came any closer. His lungs burned, his throat began to close up with fear and desperation.
He wasn’t going to make it.
A scream escaped him, bubbles bursting from him, blinding his vision.
And suddenly he was on the poolside, Rin’s body lying on the cold concrete, still limp. Haru reached out to touch him, to check…
And then he woke up.
Haru lost Rin before. The ache in his heart when Rin first left for Australia was new to Haru, but he reassured himself that Rin was chasing his dream and they would some day meet again. Then that race happened and Haru lost Rin again. It took so long to heal that gaping hole. And Haru knew the fear of losing someone to drowning. He couldn’t go through that again, especially not with Rin, not when they were finally starting… something that Haru didn’t want to name. He wasn’t sure he should name.
It took them time to settle comfortably in their lives before they focused on what they had. And then the Olympics began to distract them as well. But now, in Paris, for this next set of Olympics, Haru felt they were ready to name it. And then that cursed nightmare had to ruin that.
It might have been faster if he called a taxi, but walking felt more relaxing. Haru looked up at the hotel across the street, some lights still shining in windows high up. Was Rin awake still?
Taking a couple deep breaths, Haru schooled his expression back to normal. He took a quick glance up and down the street before crossing. And immediately stepped into a puddle that splashed up his jeans. He let out a hiss at the cold and continued stomping into the hotel lobby.
His right shoe squeaked and squelched on the marble floor, which he tried to ignore as he walked up to the reception desk and quietly asked for Rin’s room number. Once he got his answer (he certainly improved his English since his first visit to Australia), Haru went over to the elevator and pressed the button, then leaned back against the wall to wait.
What the hell was that?
The knocking came again, a little louder now.
With bleary eyes, Rin glanced over to his bedside alarm clock. 1:32 am? Who the hell would wake him now?
A knock again.
Grumbling, Rin shoved his blankets away, swinging his legs to the side. “I’m coming,” he called, his voice a little hoarse.
He had a vague feeling who it could be, but his sleep-muffled brain couldn’t give him the name he wanted. Combing his hair from his face, he clicked on the bedside lamp and immediately cringed at the brightness. With squinty eyes he walked over to the door and opened it.
A grunt escaped him as he saw Haru. His face was blank as usual, except for the shine in his blue eyes. “What is it, Haru?”
Haru’s shoulders sagged in relief at seeing Rin alive and well, albeit a tad grumpy. Suddenly he wanted to hug him, but Haru stubbornly pushed that thought down. Shaking his head at Rin, Haru let out a small huff. “It’s… nothing. Just couldn’t sleep.”
Rin’s eyebrow rose as he eyed Haru, unconvinced. “Right. So you wanted to make sure I didn’t get to sleep, is that what this is?” he asked, sarcasm dripping from his voice.
Guilt and a spike of anger flared in Haru’s stomach. He clenched his fists and shook his head.
For a couple seconds, Rin stood there, watching Haru, studying his face. Over the years he learned to detect the small signals to determine more of Haru’s feelings. The way his eyes looked a little watery, his hands had a slight tremor to them that he tried to hide by clenching them, his slight disheveled appearance. With a sigh, Rin grabbed Haru’s forearm and dragged the man into the room.
Haru’s mouth opened to protest, but stopped as Rin closed the door firmly behind them.
Then letting Haru go, Rin headed back to his bed, rolling his neck back and forth slightly before he sat down. He was about to swing his legs back in to go back to sleep when he noticed Haru was still staring at him, his brows crinkled in confusion.
“What? I’m still tired.”
“Well… I should just go,” Haru mumbled.
Rin shook his head and gestured to the other side of the bed. “No, I’m not going to let you wander the streets at this time of night. Just stay the night here. It’s fine. We still won’t have matches for a couple more days.”
Hesitating, Haru shifted from one leg to the other. “But there’s only one bed…”
A short bark of laughter escaped Rin. He smiled at Haru, his teeth sharp. “That hasn’t bothered you before. I mean, first in Australia, and then during that one training camp, and…”
“Shut up!” Haru’s cheeks grew red.
Rin looked like he was prepared to tease Haru some more, but Haru didn’t give him a chance as he threw off his hoodie and pulled off his wet jeans so that he was in a t-shirt and boxers. He felt Rin’s gaze as he folded his clothes neatly to sit on an armchair. Then Haru made his way to the other side of the bed.
Satisfied that Haru had listened to him, Rin swung his legs back under the covers and began to pull them back up. He paused as Haru slid under the blankets next to him. “Whatever kept you awake, it doesn’t matter, Haru. You know that right?”
Haru turned to face Rin. He saw the gentle concern on Rin’s face, how he slightly worried at his bottom lip. Nodding, Haru tentatively reached out his hand to grasp Rin’s. “I do now,” he said softly.
Rin smiled in return and took Haru’s hand, weaving his fingers with his. “Good.”
Then without saying anything further, Rin turned off the bedside lamp and they slid under the comfy covers. They laid facing each other, their eyes slowly adjusting to the dark. The faintest glow from the city filtered through the edges of the curtains. Blue eyes met red ones. Rin was still smiling and eventually, a small one came to Haru’s lips. Nightmares long forgotten now in the warmth of Rin’s presence.
Content and happy, Haru shuffled forward, letting Rin wrap an arm around him. As Haru snuggled into Rin’s chest, the name for this whispered in the back of his mind. This was what he wanted for the rest of his life. This was happiness. This was l—-. And then he sank into dreams, of bright clear water and swimming and Rin’s grinning face as they drifted in the water together.