The train ride to Shin'onsen is awkward as hell.
Rin has heard of people describing situations like this, when two people are within vicinity of each other but not a single word is spoken. They describe the atmosphere as 'so thick you can cut it with a knife', though in his opinion, that's nothing compared to this heavy, borderline painful silence hanging in the air. A week ago, in Rin's mind, Nanase Haruka was a sweet, shy girl (that will remain the single most embarrassing misconception he had ever done in his life) who loyally watches his YouTube videos on daily basis and is simply the most romantic person ever. Now, in the harsh reality, Nanase Haruka is this boy sitting next to him on a nearly empty train, equipped with zero communication skills and a perpetual blank expression on his not-bad face and damn it, is there really a need to sit that awfully close?!
Haruka doesn't seem to mind the lack of space between them, though, still wearing that undecipherable look and keeping quiet like there's gold in his mouth.
The crimson carnation bouquet from before lies wilting in his hand. Rin stares at it, not knowing what to do with the living proof of his idiocy. Should he give it to Haruka? A boy giving a bunch of flowers that spells out 'admiration' to another boy he has only met a moment ago just screams homoromantic. But there's hardly anyone in their coach, and it's not like he can keep it anyway. It's a shame if such beautiful flowers go to waste.
Sousuke's words come to his mind, and Rin sighs. He just hopes the guy isn't allergic to pollens, or something.
"Hey, umm. I got this for you, actually," Rin says, fidgeting in his seat and turning to face Haruka. The instance Haruka looks up, Rin thrusts the flowers into his face in one swift motion. "Y-you can have it, if you want."
Haruka looks genuinely taken aback for a brief moment, before his expression morphs into a mixture of shock and delight. He takes the offered bouquet gently and brings it close to his nose to give it a sniff, closing his eyes for a second. When he reopens them, they're gleaming a brilliant shade of blue. "They're red like your eyes, Rin," he says. "I like it." There's a faint hint of a smile playing on Haruka's lips. Rin swears that he can see freaking rainbows and shit in the background.
Protagonist giving flowers to his love interest? Check. Love interest sniffing the flowers and smiling shyly? Check. Sitting side by side with knees brushing lightly? Check. Going on a first date? Half check.
It's like a scene straight from the cheesiest romance movies he can ever find. It's a dream come true, and Rin is lying if he says that he doesn't fucking love it.
Rin is torn between shuffling closer to Haruka and snuggling up to him or getting as far away as possible, preferably jumping off the train onto the railway while he's at it. He settles for a curt nod instead, and plugs in his music player, turning it up so he can drown out the distracting ringing heartbeats in his ears.
Sensing that no further conversation is going to take place, Haruka wordlessly goes back to whatever he was doing before –which was staring silently at the sceneries rushing by - only this time with a bouquet of red carnations (wait, how the hell did the flowers become fresh again?) resting nicely on top of his lap.
The train continues to roll down the San'in line, and throughout the journey, Rin sneaks a glance at him once. Twice. On the third, their eyes meet.
Rin feels his heart stop. He quickly shifts his gaze towards something else, pretending to appear unaffected.
The furious blush on his cheeks gives him away.
Aikawa Hot Springs is a 10-minutes' walk away from Hamasaka Station, located a fair distance from the hustles and bustles of the busier parts of Shin'onsen. Regarded as one of the best onsen in the area (and Shin'onsen, as the name indicates, has many, many onsen to choose from), the place is constantly lively and filled with visitors. Matsuoka is a household name here, being one of their long-time customers. Haruka watches in amazement as the workers all greet Rin cheerfully, bowing in utmost respect and welcome when they pass by.
Since this is meant to be a date of some sort, Rin has made several special requests for his reservation in his enthusiasm to make it as romantic as possible. Apart from booking the best room that boasts beautiful décor and fantastic view from the balcony, he's also ordered the most delicious meals prepared by his favourite chef, even specifically asking for the freshest mackerel they can get. Nothing but the finest for Miss Nanase, as Rin recalls telling the manager.
Mister Nanase it is, now.
Rin admits, he may have bragged over the phone to them a little about his date, and some of the female staffs were more than eager to help make it the best date ever. Here's the little boy they've doted on for the past few years whenever his family comes on a vacation, and now that he is a handsome young man old enough to bring his own sweetheart, it's understandable that they would want to be involved. Strangely though, when he struts in with a guy instead, all of them started grinning creepily, some even giggling among themselves without bothering to hide their glee, much to Rin's dismay.
Sometimes Rin wonders how many people out there thinks he swings that way. Is it the mid-length hair? Or maybe it's the ankle bracelet… shit, he might have to stop wearing that.
They provide him with the largest room in the far end of the hallway, isolated from the rest of the visitors. As he takes the keys, Rin battles the hue of scarlet that's spreading over his cheeks at the realization that yes, they have just given him the freaking honeymoon suite.
"I've been wondering for a while, Haru… I don't see you bringing any bags. Do you have spares to change into? I mean, after the hot bath, of course," Rin asks as they're settling down in the tatami-mat room, curiousity getting the better of him. The room-maid has just left after making sure that everything is in place, leaving behind the customary tea and confections for them to enjoy.
"I brought swimsuits," Haruka replies plainly, gesturing towards his black backpack that lies flat on the floor next to the sliding door. The bag is small, small enough that at least three of it can easily fit into Rin's much larger duffel bag. Rin waits for him to continue explaining, but he doesn't. It's as if he honestly is of opinion that hogging your swimsuits along wherever you go is the most natural thing on Earth.
"Ooookaaay… But we're not swimming, so why would you bring those?"
"For the bath. I bathe with my swimsuits on."
Rin blinks. "You're kidding, right?"
At this point, Rin knows better than to expect to see Haruka burst out laughing; it's basically impossible. Rin has tried making lame jokes on the train, just to lighten up the mood a bit, but it resulted in a few humiliating moments that made him want to smash his face onto the ground in hopes that the pain could wash the shame away. The guy's emotion is extremely difficult to evoke, and true enough, Haruka's only answer is an unamused glare.
"Oh my god, you're not kidding," Rin mutters under his breath. An image of scowling Haruka sitting in the hot bath with a swimsuit covering his nether regions pops up in his head, and Rin has to cough out loud to fight the incoming chuckles. "Uhhhh, okay, cool. What about other clothings? Shirt, pants, underwear…?"
Haruka looks up from the tea he's pouring. "I have one set."
At least he still has common sense. Rin isn't too sure he can tolerate a half-naked Haruka walking around the room wearing only a scanty swimsuit. Worse still, he doesn't even know if it's the proper thigh-and-calves-covering one or just a piece of triangle concealing what matters most (his junk obviously).
If Haruka pulls out a freaking speedo from his bag later, Rin will probably faint on the spot.
Just as his naughty mind starts to conjure some rather interesting pictures, he finds a hand waved in front of his face. Apparently, he's been staring into space for a while now, seeing as Haruka is already sitting cross-legged across the table, two cups of piping hot green tea and a plate of steaming manju in front of them. The sweet smell of red bean-jam slowly fills the air. Noticing that Rin's attention is on him, Haruka reaches into his bag and rummages around to take out one small container with an attached spoon.
"Pudding," Haruka says before Rin can ask. "You want some?"
Rin shakes his head, offering a polite smile instead. "No thanks, I don't like sweet stuff."
In a split second, Haruka's face turns gloomy. He looks crestfallen, like he's disappointed in himself. "Oh. My bad. I forgot about that," he says.
"Yeah it's fine… Wait, forgot? What do you mean, 'forgot', how would you know in the first place?"
"Your videos," Haruka answers, nonchalantly taking one spoonful of the caramel goodness and popping it in. "You talked about it once, in one of your vlogs."
"You remembered? Why would you remember such things…"
"Of course I do. I've watched all of your videos a couple of times."
As soon as Haruka realizes the things he's accidentally said, he casts his eyes downwards, face turning a lovely shade of pink. He has just admitted that he's fanboy. A sick, stalkerish, obsessed fanboy. And to the person he's obsessing about, no less. The reaction causes Rin to blush as well, his thoughts going back to the comments Haruka has left about him and how this whole thing is making him feel oh so special.
"T-thank you… You know, for the support, and everything," Rin croaks out.
Haruka goes back to eating. Rin goes back to staring.
Rin peeks at Haruka who is still busy shoveling the food down his throat. For someone who claims he eats mackerel, and only mackerel, he's eating quite an amount, from what Rin has observed. It must be pretty good. "How is it?" He asks shyly.
"The pudding. How does it taste like?"
Haruka shrugs, just a barely noticeable movement of his shoulders. "Like pudding. Sweet. You've never tasted one before?"
"I think I did, back in the elementary school. But I stopped eating sugary food once I got into the swim team… You know, keeping fit and all that."
Upon hearing the word 'swim', Haruka's eyes sparkle, having a different glint to it. He looks almost… excited. Which is an emotion he's rarely associated with. He goes silent for a while before scooping up a bit of the pudding and, to Rin's utter surprise, holds it out in front of Rin's mouth.
"Wanna try?" He offers, cool as a cucumber. Rin, on the other hand, is this close to spontaneously combusting and exploding into thousands of little pieces, because Nanase freaking Haruka is offering to spoon-feed him for god's sake, and surely that will count as an indirect kiss, right?
Bracing himself for the heart-attack that's sure to come after, Rin leans over the table and chomps down on the spoon. The pudding's texture feels foreign on his tongue –soft, fluffy and kinda melts-in-your-mouth- but the taste is like a burst of flavours, a wide range of sweetness that leaves a pleasant feeling. To put it simply, it tastes like paradise.
"Ugh, it's too sweet!" Rin comments, licking his lips to rid of any caramel leftovers. "But it's really good. Where'd you get this?"
"Makoto gave it to me."
"Well, you have to send my love to this Makoto girl because this is one amazing food."
"Makoto's a boy."
Rin stiffens. "Ohh. Sorry." Wrong assumption, again. He definitely should just shut up now.
"Want some more?" Haruka asks, hand already poised in front of Rin with yet another spoonful of the heavenly dessert, and really, how can Rin say no to that?
Spoon-feeding each other like a helplessly lovestruck couple? Check.
It's all sunshine and rainbows so far, but the dilemma comes when it's time for the main event of the day: the hot bath.
Since he thought that Haruka is a girl, the private open-air ofuro was never meant to be used. It's just the perks of being a loyal customer; always getting the best services, and sometimes extra even when not requested. The initial plan is for them to go into the gender-segregated public baths, have delicious meals together, maybe go for sightseeing a bit (while wearing their yukata, how romantic is that!), and then return to Iwatobi hopefully before the last train departs.
"Public bath, or private?" Rin asks. A part of him wishes that Haruka would choose the public one, then they can enter it together without having to feel awkward or self-conscious.
"Private," Haruka decides without hesitation.
"You're a shy one, huh?" Rin ribs, grinning teethily and giving a little playful shove to Haruka's side. Haruka doesn't seem perturbed by the teasing, though. Damn, the guy really needs to get that stick out of his ass and learn to loosen up a bit. "Well then, Haru, I present to you… Aikawa Hot Springs!"
Rin's hand barely manages to slide the transparent door leading to the bath open when a dark shadow flashes pass him at the speed of a ninja assassin, jumping into the pool of warm water without delay. Some of the hot water splashes onto his T-shirt and pants, soaking through it and making it cling onto his skin. Rin hisses.
What the hell was that?
Wincing at the slight burn, Rin realizes that the lighting-quick silhouette was indeed Haruka, who has just stripped down within a matter of seconds and is now happily lounging in the wide rectangular onsen tub. At first, Rin avoids looking at him, dreading that he's probably butt-naked in there, but once the fog clears up, Rin can see the outline of his dark swimsuit.
"You were wearing your swimsuit the whole time?!"
Haruka answers with a nod, half of his face buried underneath the surface of the water. Bubbles arise and pop alternatingly, and he closes his eyes in bliss. Seeing the scene that fits just like his imagination earlier (and again, thank god for no speedos), Rin can't resist letting out an amused laughter.
"Is this how you always act around water?"
Haruka slowly emerges from the water to reply, albeit reluctantly. "Yes. Water calls for me, and I answer. It's that simple."
"You're quite the funny guy, aren't you Haru?" Rin says, spending a few final seconds staring at Haruka's figure (okay, so perhaps that's a little gay, but what else is there to do when an attractive half-naked boy is bathing in front of you?) before grabbing a towel from the rack and heading towards the door. "I'll be going, then. Enjoy your bath."
"Wait, Rin. Where are you going?"
"Umm, the rotenburo. Why?"
"You're not bathing here?"
Rin is affirmative that he must be doing the eyebrow thing now. Bathing here, in the same tub as him? Is Haruka crazy, or does he not grasp the sense of privacy? Besides, Rin has a hunch that some other problems might arise if he stays around any longer. "Well, since you're using it, I can't be intruding on you… It's fine, really. The public one is cozy too," he reasons.
"You can stay. There's enough space for both of us." To prove his point, Haruka scoots over to the edge of the tub, bringing his knees close to his chest. He rests his head on top of them and gives a bashful, once-over glance at Rin before looking away, mumbling a faint "we can… talk. For a bit."
Rin's resolution instantly crumble into tiny fragments and he caves in to his inner demons that are begging for him to stay. "Alright, if you insist."
Predictably, they barely talk much anyway throughout the brief hours spent together in the hot bath. It's not that Rin doesn't want to, he knows that if he asks the right questions, they can start a decent conversation, but he just doesn't have the heart to disturb Haruka who seems to be entirely entranced by the comfort and contentment the bath provides. Rin watches fondly as Haruka nearly dozes off a couple of times, too captivated by the relaxing ambience.
They exit the bath afterwards and change into the inn's yukata -a midnight blue for Haruka and a dark grey for Rin. The rest of the day goes by in a flash. Food is wonderful and worth every yen; Haruka isn't kidding when he says he loves mackerel, gobbling up the mackerel fillets like a lost traveler who hasn't eaten for days while Rin looks on in incredulity.
They have a few hours left, so Rin shows him around the small town, all the while recording the places they stop at on his video camera. Rin fights the urge to squeal whenever their hands brush in the crowd, or when Haruka grabs onto his pinky lightly just so he doesn't get lost. As the sun is setting, they take a casual stroll in the park nearby and pass by a huge cherry blossom tree, which unfortunately isn't blooming.
"It's beautiful," Haruka breathes, voice a soft whisper. He places his hands on the trunk, caressing the rough bark in awe. "I feel like drawing it."
Rin stares at him, astounded. "Wait, you draw?"
Haruka replies with a shrug. "Told you I like art."
"Yeah, but you didn't tell me you do art. I thought you meant the 'admire paintings in the gallery' kind of like."
"Hmm," Haruka looks up, staring longingly at the naked branches of the tree. "I wonder how it looks like when in full bloom."
Rin almost makes a promise that they'll come here again in spring, but he doesn't want to make a promise he's not sure he can keep.
They return to the inn just before it gets dark. When it's time to check out, the rain is heavily pouring outside, drops pitter-pattering loudly on the rooftop.
"What?" Haruka is waiting patiently at the main entrance when he hears the shriek coming from Rin. "What do you mean, the train is not working?!"
The receptionist struggles to calm Rin down, who is currently having some sort of a nervous breakdown, hands gripping at the counter's edge to the point of his knuckles turning white. They're supposed to check out and return the keys, but it seems that some problem has cropped up. Concerned, Haruka approaches them stealthily, wanting to find out what all the fuss is about.
"It is just as I have said, Matsuoka-sama… The train service is currently halted after they found a suspicious package in one of the San'in Main Line trips. The only information the police has disclosed is that the suspects who left it there are two high school students, one blonde and the other blue-haired," she explains, and Haruka perks up at the descriptions, which so happen to be eerily similar to the two boys he knows too well… Coincidence? He thinks not. Haruka makes a mental note to have a word or two with them when he returns. "We are sorry about this, too. But the rain is not letting up anytime soon, so for your safety, I would advise you to spend the night here."
Hearing that, Haruka senses something stir inside him. Today has been perfect. Rin is exactly like everything he's imagined every time he watches his videos –charming, lively, and freaking adorable, especially when he thinks no one is looking. There are times when Rin gets on his nerves though, like his persistence in getting Haruka to eat the vegetable side-dishes (they still taste horrible regardless of the cooking), but Haruka truly enjoys the short time they spent together. So much so that when Rin told him that it's time to leave, he felt a strange pang in his chest.
Once they've gone back, they'll go separate ways. They will regress to just being a famous YouTuber and his faithful subscriber, nothing more, nothing less.
Haruka will still go home early on Tuesdays and click on SharkBoiUnleashed's latest upload. He will still watch it more than once, run his fingers carefully over the screen, tracing the outline of Rin's face –a habit he doesn't even notice he has picked up- and struggling to understand the waves of feelings that wash over him each time Rin laughs. And all that he'll have left is the memory of spending that day at the hot springs with Rin, and the sketches lie hiding in his books.
Haruka realizes that he isn't ready to say goodbye yet.
(Haruka remembers what goodbye feels like. When Grandma passed away, he cried. Cried and cried for days, because he's young and afraid, of the bottomless hollow so suddenly carved onto his heart, of the loneliness and unfathomable void that haunts him. When his parents left for Tokyo, he didn't cry anymore. He's bigger then, the loneliness doesn't affect him as much. But he still hates that feeling. He wants to forget, but he can't, so he keeps away from getting too attached to people because he knows that one day, everyone will say goodbye. Makoto, Nagisa, Rei… Everyone.
And now, Rin.)
Rin clucks his tongue and musses his hair in frustration. Not noticing Haruka who is now standing right behind him, he groans. "Shit, but we need to go back—"
"I don't mind..." Haruka mutters, catching Rin off guard.
Haruka looks at Rin, gaze unwavering. "I don't mind, staying the night with you."
A/N: I got caught up writing for HaruRinHaru Xmas Exchange so forgive me for taking so long. Hope it's worth the wait? Sometimes I think that there's too much fluff thrown in here but then again, you can never have enough fluff :P If the cliffhanger gives you pervy ideas, well, clearly you've been reading too many explicit fics! I'm keeping this T, but if you guys want a dirty spin-off or something, I can work on that hahah *wiggles eyebrows* Reviews/favs/follows are appreciated!