I used to be part of a year-round swim team and specialized in breastroke (like Nagisa) for many years, so I really enjoyed watching Free!. I recently finished season 1, and I'm relatively new to the anime. Even though I try my best, please go easy on me if I happen to make canon mistakes or the characters are OOC. I have not seen Eternal Summer, so I won't be including its plot. (I apologize for that.)
I'm aware that most Free! fanart has Haru associated with the dolphin, but frankly I find orcas more interesting, and a more suitable counterpart for Haru as we know him.
This is my first shot at writing both Free! and shounen-ai. Feedback or constructive criticism is greatly appreciated.
Free Haru (1)
The stories, tales, and myths of shapeshifters have always captivated the imagination of mankind.
Human nature in of itself was still a mystery to ponder. Even more mysterious was animal nature. The idea of beings having both was fodder for fantastical tales told over fires, or written down with ink on the page. Unbeknowst to much of the world, Phasers were a reality. As their name implied, these remarkably unique changelings could phase between human and animal form at will. Much like having control of heads and tails of the same coin. What animal form the Phasers have inherited and passed down through generations boast incredible variety and diversity. Wolves, tigers, rabbits, snakes, sharks...the possibilities were endless. An ultimate tool for adaptation, Phasers could live among humans or animals, whatever they chose for optimal survival. The ability to change form is an instinct, and like all instincts, it can be difficult to control. Some Phasers lived and acted as animals for so long that they forgot how to revert to human form. On the other extreme, Phasers who lived as humans for too long struggled with the inner beast that threatened to burst out of its cage. Such Phasers who could not control their bestial urges were treated by the average human populace as being mentally ill or insane. The labels were bad enough, but their fates were worse.
With a rapidly dwindling population, and many of their brethren forgetting their ability and forsaking their heritage in captivity, orca Phasers were among the rarest...
A terrible storm brewed. The sea bucked, reared, and roiled like an angry beast, tossed in the throes of lashing wind and rain.
Haruka the young orca Phaser didn't stand a chance. He did his best to stick close to his pod, particularly to his mother, but the choppy waters proved too strong of a force to resist. A powerful surge of water sent Haruka flying back, and he was torn away from his pod, left to the mercy of the stormy sea.
The little orca couldn't get the slightest sense of up or down, let alone catch sight of any member of his pod. His clicking sounds of distress went unheard as thunder boomed and waves crashed overhead.
Since birth, Haruka had always been a strong swimmer. He could outswim other baby orcas and cut through the water with ease; the only thing that held him back was the simple fact that he was an orca, and not the water itself. But in this storm, all of Haru's strength meant absolutely nothing in the angry, mighty face of nature. The waves tossed him to and fro like a fish caught in the jaws of a hungry sea lion.
Haruka fought furiously with his beating tail to reach what he thought was the surface. The need for air burned in his lungs. Cold terror seized him as saltwater poured through his blowhole and choked him. Finally, as if by some miracle, Haruka broke through his head through the surface and gasped for air. No sooner had he done that, a huge wave swelled and snatched him in its grip. He was helpless as he was pulled upward, then sent tumbling as the wave reached its peak and collapsed. All he could see was a blur of dark blue and white.
Haruka saw no end to the storm, only the end of his life. His little body was pounded and battered by the storm-ridden sea, soon to go limp and lose his life any second now.
Then something else hit him. Wet sand. The waves heaved and sent him sprawling on the shore. Water spewed from his blowhole and he gasped. The storm continued to rage on overhead, sending wave after wave pounding his back and pushing him farther inland.
He raised his tail uselessly, then let it fall heavily onto the sand as his strength quickly left him. He couldn't believe he was alive. Beached, but alive. His stomach smarted from the impact, and Haruka's whole body feel like dead weight. Though he was alive, he hated it. He felt trapped, even mad at the sea for turning him over to be held prisoner on land. Haruka shivered as the wind buffeted his cold, wet body. He had to get out of this somehow. If he remained as an orca, he will die.
Suddenly a thought struck him like lightning. 'I'm a Phaser. I'm free to change if I wanted to.'
Despite knowing he was a Phaser, Haruka had never actually attempted to phase before. Born in the coast of Japan, Haruka had spent all of his short life up until now as part of the pod. Fish was bountiful at this time of the year, so the orca Phasers didn't see the need to set foot on the shore as humans. His mother never had the chance to teach him how to phase. His heart ached; she wasn't with him anymore. He lost her in the storm. He would have to do it all on his own.
Haruka gritted his teeth. 'Come on, orca body. Change to a human one!' He thought and thought as hard as he could. He had never even seen a human before; he had only heard of them as if they were a myth. But being part human ran in his blood, and little Haruka was determined to fish it out from the depths of his soul.
'I want to change. I want to live. I...I want to be free!'
The sheer willpower that set his mind and heart on fire instigated his transformation. Haruka felt his dorsal fin recede into his backbone. His face became smaller and round, his eyes coming closer together and messy black hair growing from his head. A nose appeared the same time his blowhole closed up. His flippers faded from black to a pale peachy color, and from broad fins to outstretched fingers. He watched and felt them extend as arms and shoulders grew from his upper torso. He shivered even more from the cold as he felt his body fat dwindle. Finally, he felt his tail split into a pair of skinny legs, the flukes shrinking into feet with wiggling toes. Awe and wonder filled his entire new human body.
'I did it. I phased.'
Haruka flexed his fingers, opening and closing them like the anemones he had seen on the coast. He clenched his jaw, feeling his now flattened teeth pressed against each other. Only one word rang clear in his mind.
Haruka struggled to obey the command he imposed on himself. He pushed up on his elbows and knees, overwhelmed by the strangeness and newfound power in his movements. He trembled and shook like a newborn deer. Then he heaved himself forward, just a few more inches into shore before he collapsed back on the sand. Despite this, elation soared in his chest. He couldn't even get on his feet, but that weak little movement alone was something he could never do in his orca form.
'I won't drown. I'm going to live. I'm free.'
With that last thought on his mind, Haruka's eyes fluttered shut as his consciousness ebbed away, like the waves pulling back under the dwindling storm.
Ken and Sorae Nanase took their time on a slow stroll, hand-in-hand, with wet sand crunching under their sandals. The young couple, married for half a year now, always enjoyed walks on the beach. Most of the time they served as romantic eacapades, but lately they had been doing them out of solace.
Ken looked down at his wife of six months, and the pain on Sorae's face was a sight he could hardly bear. The most recent miscarriage still took its toll on her. Every attempt the young couple made always ended in failure and tragedy. Looking at Sorae now, Ken came to the sad conclusion in his mind that there would be no next time. He had always wanted to start a family and raise children, with none other than his kind and lovely wife. But if striving for that goal meant bringing more pain and grief to Sorae, Ken would rather be childless for the rest of his life.
He squeezed her hand when he saw tears form in her eyes. Sorae leaned against him and pressed her cheek against his shoulder.
Her whisper was almost lost amid the waves. "What's wrong with me? Why can't I ever...?" A soft sob cut her off, and Ken pulled her into a comforting embrace.
"Please don't blame yourself, Sorae. It's not your fault." His throat clenched. "Sometimes these things happen. We don't know why, but they happen..." He placed a hand at the back of her head and kissed into her hair, whispering how much he still loved her, no matter what. Sorae pulled back to give him a loving, grateful gaze before the couple resumed walking down the shoreline.
After a mile of walking, Ken squinted into the distance. "Hey, I see something ahead. What's that on the sand?"
Sorae followed the direction of his gaze. A few more steps forward, and the two realized at the same time that what they saw was not driftwood at all.
The Nanases broke into a run. Sorae pressed a hand to her open mouth.
"Oh my God-!"
The prone figure lying on the sand appeared to be a young boy, around five or six years old. He was completely naked, his face and stomach planted in the sand and his limbs sprawled before him.
Ken wasted no time. He pulled off his rain jacket and enveloped the naked boy with it. He bent his head and pressed his ear to the boy's chest.
"I hear a heartbeat. He's alive!"
Relief and worry filled Sorae as she cradled the boy's prone form in her arms. With one hand she brushed aside his wet black bangs and felt his forehead.
"He's ice cold. What in the world happened?"
Her husband shook his head. "I've no idea. If he's been out here, it's a wonder that he survived last night's storm."
"His parents must be worried sick."
"Let's get him to the hospital first. We can worry about finding his parents after the doctors take care of him."
A soft moan made Ken and Sorae look down. The boy stirred weakly in Sorae's arms. His eyelids fluttered open to reveal eyes as blue as the sea. Only the urgency of contacting a hospital kept the couple from standing still in shock.
"You're going to be okay, sweetie," Sorae murmured. "We'll get you help soon."
Ken was on the phone, explaining the situation the best he could. His eyes kept darting between the boy and where he was walking. When he hung up, he said, "Don't worry, the ambulance will be here soon. We need to wait here so they can locate us."
Sorae nodded. She couldn't take her eyes off of the mysterious boy in her arms. Curiosity compelled her to softly ask: "What's your name? Could you at least tell us that?"
The boy's lips opened and closed, but no sound came out. Finally, the reedy call of an orca sounded from his throat, but Ken and Sorae didn't understand. They only looked down at him in confusion.
He blinked slowly. 'That's right. I'm human now. I need to make human sounds.'
Just as his will became action during his phase, his thoughts became words as he spoke for the first time.