.

.

When he had been very young, Haru's grandmother often tucked him into bed, instead of his parents.

At the time, Haru understood his parents were busy and forgave them — even if his childish defiance insisted that it wasn't fair that they were always gone and out of the country, leaving him behind all of the time. But he had his grandmother with him. So in the end, that was good enough.

That night, she told him a story about the fish and the pearl.

Deep, deep below the ocean's raging surface, a little, colorful koi fish spent day and night swimming. The reason being because he was lonely. He never knew his family, she informed Haru with a solemn, weathered expression.

Haru didn't think it could have been all that bad — after all, the koi fish got the swim whenever he wanted. People kept telling Haru he needed to get out of the water sometimes. Or a lot of the time. The water never made Haru feel lonely, so he guessed he didn't understand the koi fish in the story that much.

The koi fish discovered a pearl one day — shiny and silvery like moonlight against the coral-beds.

He ended up falling in love with it.

(A most foolish decision.)

Haru's nose wrinkled, partly in skepticism and partly in unconcealed disgust, and his grandmother scolded him gently. "The little koi fish did not understand what love was, and for that, you should pity him," she said, combing her fingers affectionately into Haru's shower-wet mop of dark hair.

"When you are very lonely, sometimes you may find yourself confused…"

His grandmother never finished the story that night — complaining about a headache and her aching joints, but kissing him on the forehead before turning off the light. Haru had not been especially interested anyway.

She never woke up.

Maybe… he and the koi fish were more alike than he initially thought.

Even many years later, in the middle of a restless night, Haru tries to imagine an ending — one where it could be happier.

Happier like training and competing for the Olympics, finding the strength and drive inside him to pursue a career in swimming, without letting go of his love for it. Happier like slowly falling in love with Makoto over time, instead of a beautiful and nameless pearl.

The trouble is how apart they are now, despite being so close — their schedules hardly ever match. While sharing an apartment in Tokyo, Haru ends up being the one traveling the most due to his swimming.

He feels the need to crash after exhausting and long train rides, missing the opportunity for spending more time with Makoto — except for the moments where Haru dozes off on the bed, curled up snugly against Makoto's side as the other man slip on his thick-rimmed glasses and squints his eyes at his textbook.

It's not a perfect arrangement, but Haru wants it to work.

He unlocks the front apartment door, seeing most of the lights dimmed or off inside. A twinge of noticeable disappointment rises in Haru's chest, as he toes off his worn tennis shoes and drops his lightweight gym bag. He… well, hoping and wishing never really solved anything, did it?

There's a warm, peppery odor in the air — probably leftover from any cooking breakfast in the early hours. At least there's no smoke this time.

Makoto is not known for his cooking. That much is obvious.

Haru heads further inside their apartment, rolling his shoulders absently underneath his windbreaker and then glancing over a scribbled note lying on a table:

Be home as soon as I can. Might be late tonight. Love you.
- Makoto

The strong, and yet childish, impulse to crumble the note up and toss it out passes. Haru sighs out, his frown deepening. He's about to grab a nearby bottled water when a pair of huge, muscular arms embrace him from behind.

"Hey — oh, sorry. Sorry!" Makoto says, sounding genuinely apologetic, loosening his grip when the other man jumps in place and then relaxes at the familiarity of Makoto's voice. "I didn't mean to sneak up on you, Haru…" He emphasizes this by pressing a brief, soft kiss behind Haru's ear.

"Your note said you would be gone," Haru points out a little sullenly. Regardless, his hands lift and rest on top of Makoto's tan hands folded up comfortably against Haru's abdomen.

Makoto whispers out, his lips quirking into a smile at the feeling of his boyfriend leaning in. "I must have gotten in right before you. The study group cancelled… mhm," he whines out slightly, hugging Haru tight and nuzzling his nose into black, damp strands of hair. "I'm so glad you're home…"

The sensation pushes out any lingering disappointment, and Haru feels a new burst of heat in his gut.

"Are you hungry, Haru-chan? I could—"

Makoto cuts himself off, laughing out a bright, loud noise when Haru impatiently leads him out of apartment's corridor. Their pace halting only for Haru's fingers scrambling to yank open Makoto's belt and for an exchange of messy, hot kisses, Makoto's palms framing Haru's face.

.

.

There's moonlight, silvery and spectral, hovering on the quilts — bathing around naked limbs.

Haru's mouth tastes the faint scruff of hair darkening Makoto's jaw, one of his hands groping between the other man's thighs. Makoto seizes his hips, dragging back every rough, clumsy thrust Haru offers, until their skin rubs and tacks with perspiration. The little breathy gasps escaping him at the height of everything.

He tastes the spit and the bitterness of Haru's own semen on Makoto's tongue, between gently sucking lips and quick, biting nibbles Makoto unthinkingly leaves on Haru's raw, pinkened mouth.

The orgasms never disappoint — but only worth it as long as he's with Makoto, underneath or on top of him. He looks at Haru through his lashes, eyes not completely open. Makoto's expression rosy and euphorically grinning. Haru feels none of the loneliness he fears, and only bare, constant touch.

"Why didn't you go?" he asks, shifting beneath Makoto's forearm draped to his waist. Haru turns his blue eyes on Makoto's astonished face. "Your study group wasn't cancelled," Haru tells him flatly.

A pause.

Makoto gazes over him in flustered silence, exhaling and smiling widely, propping up on an elbow.

"Haru-chan knows everything," he says amused, not deterred by Haru's look of uneasiness. "Don't worry — a friend will let me see the notes tomorrow. I wanted to be with you instead. I thought we could tonight."

Makoto's fingers stroke up, running over Haru's pale shoulder, thumbing over the slope.

Haru's lips quirk upwards, sending out a thank you.

He guesses Makoto, and himself, they can both be forgiven.

.

.


Free! isn't mine. YOOOOOOO! I ended up seeing the 2016 Makoto Tachibana Birthday Exchange on Tumblr back in September and never decided to enter, BUT they needed pinch hitters this week and I volunteered! I ended up being partnered to fill mamodewberry's (AO3) prompt: "Makoharu. Domestic fluff - at home in Tokyo. Post series/aged up." So here we are! Hope you guys love and any comments/reviews are so appreciated! :)