A breeze whips his hair over his eyes, a cold caress to his burning face, Haruka allows it to take away his inhibitions.
Makoto is leaning his weight on the railing, holding up his cup with his left hand, leaving his right — the one closer to Haruka — free. Haruka knows it's not coincidence; it never was.
He reaches out, fitting their hands together, smiling when Makoto's fingers curl over his own without question.
Makoto finishes his drink with no hurry, leisurely lowering the cup from his mouth. He explores Haruka's hand with deft fingers, searching for a cold spot somewhere that he could alleviate.
Haruka quietly admires the seamless connection, his small smile growing as he looks up at Makoto. "You shouldn't indulge me when I'm feeling selfish," he whispers, just loud enough for Makoto to hear.
City lights brighten Makoto's features. He tilts his head, finding his footing in this new tangent running between and around them. "You're the most selfless person I know."
"Not always…" Not when it comes to you. Haruka bites his bottom lip, a guilty flush coloring his cheeks.
"Was the milk tea okay?" It's not the question that Makoto really means to ask but it steers them in the right direction.
"Better than expected," Haruka admits. "Next time, it'll be on me."
"Next time," Makoto repeats, pulling their hands away from the ledge to rest comfortably by their sides. He turns to Haruka, an epiphany waiting to take place in the indecisive stretch of his lips. He leaves his empty cup on the railing right beside Haruka's.
Haruka nods once, unable to hold in his own nervous smile as he sheds his uncertainties for Makoto - only Makoto - to see. His accelerated heartbeat slows and time stands still for those precious few moments where Makoto peruses his bared soul.
The first relieved laugh breaks out between them, the fog clears and a new understanding enlivens those green eyes. Tremors trace the edge of Makoto's voice, the red tint on his cheeks only partly caused by the November chill. More laughter escapes him, unblemished like a child's and resonating like bells in Haruka's ears.
"Makoto." It feels unbelievably good just saying his name, having the syllables roll off his tongue and touch upon his lips. Haruka still wants to say it, to make it official if nothing else. He's surprised when Makoto brings a hand up to his cheek, a flood of heat surfacing in response to it. They're so close now, closer than either of them have ever dared to before, but Haruka knows Makoto intends to step just a little bit closer. The caress on his cheek is an invitation.
Makoto's hand stills on the curve of his jaw. Hot breath descends unto him, the soothing smell of green tea and cream lingers in the air. Makoto's stare is unwavering.
Haruka breathes him in, eyes closing to savor the moment. Even then he can still feel the intensity contained in this one moment of their lives, he's certain of what's coming now. Lashes flutter and sure enough, Haruka finds his best friend's face within inches of his own. He gives his consent with the minute flicker of his gaze to Makoto's lips, tilting his face up to meet Makoto halfway.
Slowly, carefully, Makoto bridges the gap between them, pressing a chaste kiss on the corner of Haruka's mouth. He pulls back just enough to mirror Haruka's smile.
Haruka is thankful for the solid clasp of their hands. It keeps him standing upright when the rest of his body feels like sea foam ready to melt back into the rolling ocean.
"Was that okay?" Makoto asks , though what he really wants to know is if he can do it again, preferably real soon.
Quiet laughter fills the space between their lips, Haruka doesn't quite know how to handle this feeling; it keeps slipping out. It finds the spaces between their fingers and pulls them together like lacework. It makes his cheeks hurt with the effort to maintain a smile that just keeps growing. It fills his very being with a lightness that even being in the water can't compare.
"You call that a kiss?!" someone catcalls, followed by offended gasps of "Big brother!" and "You just ruined the mood, Rin-chan!"
… Haruka should've known. The flush on Makoto's face is adorable, though. The hand on his cheek is retracted for the purpose of Makoto scratching his nape in embarrassment.
They both turn to confirm that, yes, they are being watched by their friends… along with a few other bystanders who have heard Rin's outburst.
… Did that Aiichiro kid have his phone out?
"W-What are you all doing here?" Makoto tries to be nonchalant but Seijuurou comes up to him, eyes gleaming with purpose.
"You stole my totally perfect date idea," Seijuurou accuses, arms crossed in that menacing pose that all Samezuka swimmers know to fear.
Makoto gulps. "That's not really…"
Eyeing their entwined hands, Seijuurou 'hmph's. "And you set a damn high standard for the rest of us, too."
The others are fast approaching but Seijuurou manages to slip in one more quip before they do. Bumping shoulders with Makoto he adds, "But give me some tips for Gou-kun and we'll call it even. Here's my number." He slips something into Makoto's pocket. Upon noticing that the others are within hearing distance, he puts on his usual energetic persona. "So yes, congratulations, Tachibana-san! Nanase-san!"
Haruka stares at the pocket where Seijuurou deposited his number, wondering if wanting to burn the scrap of tissue paper is a normal reaction. As if reading his thoughts (which is most likely the case), Makoto pulls Haruka around to face the consequences.
Most of the residents have succumbed to sleep by the time they enter their neighborhood.
Jackets zipped up to ward off the cold, their footsteps echo on the pavement. Makoto is adamant about delivering Haruka to his doorstep this time.
Haruka doesn't look at Makoto, eyes to the side and pouting, heart pitter-pattering to a tune in he's pretty sure he heard from Makoto's iPod some time ago. The Nanase residence looms over them now and Haruka remembers the time Makoto waited for him in the entrance hall, asleep and unfed just so he can deliver the team's sentiments to Haruka; Makoto never needed to say anything, just his presence is enough. And now…
Makoto's fingertips slide away from his palm, moonlight softening his features. "It's pretty late, we can probably afford to sleep in tomorrow. Mom knows about the awards, though, so I'll probably drop by in the afternoon to deliver some sweets."
Under the shadow of the porch roof, Haruka's imagination is running wild. Well, not exactly. It's actually just telling him one thing: to get the good night kiss that started this whole crazy journey. Makoto is still rambling, still stalling, and Haruka shouldn't be enjoying seeing Makoto so flustered but he is. He should really do something about this, though, otherwise they'll remain standing there soaking up each other's presence until daybreak.
Shuffling footsteps bring Makoto into the shade. Haruka reaches out, steadies himself with his hands on Makoto's neck and shoulder. He pushes up on his toes, Makoto's hands find his waist.
Taking his cue, Makoto dips his head, a new glaze coloring his eyes as they come together for a kiss. His chest presses against Haruka's, a responding beat calling him in, calling him closer.
Heat and musk and a reverent sigh that sounds like his name fuses with his body, all of it carrying the singular reality that is Makoto — his indelible presence in Haruka's life. He lets the kiss come to its natural end, mouth sliding away with the sweet taste of Makoto still on his lips. "I'll be there for lunch,"Haruka assures him, wearing a fond smile as he brushes a thumb over Makoto's cheek. "Go home and get some sleep."
Hands squeeze the sides of his waist before dropping. "I will," Makoto acquiesces, fatigue starting to show. It has been a busy day.
Nodding, Haruka retracts his own hands before the urge to trace Makoto's smile with his fingers overcome him.
"You watched the tournament? Ah. Thank you… It's alright, you don't have to — Oh, okay. Next week then… I'm at the Tachibanas… We just had lunch…"
The door creaks open and Makoto slips in, softening his steps when he sees Haruka on the phone, sitting on the floor with his back against the side of Makoto's bed.
"Actually, Mrs. Tachibana tends to act even more bothered when I don't show up…"
Makoto doesn't need to ask, he goes around fixing his less-than-tidy belongings — evidence of their recently concluded study session. Makoto has read enough texts of the romantic persuasion to know that he can still use the term without having to add quotation marks; hopefully, it'll stay like that for little while longer.
Haruka tugs at Makoto's hand when he passes by him, pulling the taller teen down. "Makoto is here, you can ask him." He transfers the phone to Makoto's ear, a little reluctant to let go even when Makoto takes hold of the device.
"Y-Yes, hello." Makoto sits up straight. "Mrs. Nanase, hi, how are you? Oh, that's nice. And how is Mr. Nanase? I'm doing well. The tournament? Yes, thank you… It has been a while—"
Haruka shifts, propping an arm over the bed and cradling his face on one hand as he watches Makoto converse with his mom. It's rare to hear that his parents are coming home for no specific reason; they usually schedule their returns for the holidays and special occasions like his birthday. Come to think of it, though, there is a special occasion worth celebrating…
"Really? I'm sure Haru will be happy to — Ah, I see… Thank you for remembering!" Hints of a blush show on Makoto's features. He pouts at the amused grin Haruka is sending his way, looking up just in time to witness Ren and Ran barging into his room, shouting, "Game time! Game time!"
Haruka turns to the twins, lifting a finger to his lips to quiet them.
Curiosity brings the younger Tachibanas over, piling on Haruka's lap to try and hear who Makoto is talking to.
"Sorry about that, Ren and Ran just came in," Makoto explains to the receiver. "Yes, they're alright. We're going to play video games with Haru… Eh? I mean, I'd love to a-and that's very generous of you but I should probably ask mom about it first… Okay, hold on." He covers the mouthpiece with his hand, giving an apologetic smile, "Can I take this for a moment? I have to—"
"Go ahead." Haruka watches Makoto exit the room in a hurry. He finds the twins observing him when he finally tears his eyes away from the door.
"What's big brother talking about?" Ren asks.
"My parents will be in town next weekend," Haruka explains. "Would you like to join us for lunch? Or maybe dinner?" Haruka feels his heart swell at the excitement that brightens the young faces before him.
"Of course we do!" Ren bursts out in a smile.
"Oh! Oh! I want to be the bridesmaid!" Ran adds, getting her brother's attention. "Like Kimiko-chan at Uncle's wedding, remember? She was so pretty in that puffy gown!"
"B-Bridesmaid?" Haruka shouldn't be blushing at the idea but he is. Where do these kids get these ideas…?
Ran pouts at him. "You're getting married to Makoto, aren't you?"
"That's why we're meeting your family." Ren says it like it's obvious, Ran nodding beside him.
"Um." The first time Haruka sees them in complete agreement with each other and it's over a wedding. His and Makoto's hypothetical wedding. Haruka doesn't know what to think. It's all too sudden. And isn't it a bit too early in their relationship to start considering those kinds of things? Despite those facts, Haruka still can't dispel the idea now that it has been introduced to him.
"—I'll do my best. Thank you." Makoto comes back before the twins can unleash more questions at him, before Haruka starts questioning himself.
He breathes a sigh of relief.
"I'll give the phone back to Haru now. Yes, okay, we'll see you then."
Haruka takes the device, glad to have Makoto take the kids from him using the game console as a lure. "It's me. Hm? Lunch. Saturday. Okay, got it… Take care. Bye." His mom ends the call and the screen of his phone goes dark as the TV lights up to display the brand's logo.
As Ren and Ran start their usual argument about which game they'll play first, Makoto glances Haruka's way.
His heart beats just a little faster.
"They think we're getting married," Haruka shares over the phone that night, lying in bed with his eyes closed.
"Who?" Makoto asks, a tinge of surprise in his tone.
"Ren and Ran."
"What gave them that idea? Did you tell them?"
"This isn't the kind of thing you tell eleven-year olds… No, they got it from our lunch plans for next week."
"You mean with your parents?"
"The very same."
"Well, it does sound like…"
A laugh. "I'm kidding, Haru..."
"... Aren't we, though?"
Haruka presses his burning face into the pillow. "Makoto…"
"Sorry, sorry. I was just teasing…"
"Don't joke about those things," Haruka mumbles.
"It's late enough that we've resorted to talking nonsense... We've still got school tomorrow. The principal's probably going to call us up again for the morning ceremony... What do you think, Haru?"
"... Haru? Are you mad?"
"If it's legalized here."
"That's my answer."
Silence comes from Makoto's end and Haruka waits it out, a little scared and a little hopeful. He's been thinking about the matter since that afternoon, trying to make a list for why he should not consider it and so far finding only that one thing. That one inconsequential thing that detracts nothing from how he truly feels.
A heave of breath and Makoto comes back on the line. "Even if it isn't..."
Haruka's breath hitches.
"I'll still be yours." Makoto whispers like it's his deepest secret. "I don't think I can just stop after all this time. I don't want to."
Static resounds and Haruka thinks he's heard a sniffle. He knows better than to address it, though, choosing instead to remember every last detail of Makoto's revelation. Haruka presses a hand over his chest, a sure imprint of Makoto's words carved within the heart that's pulsing underneath. I wouldn't want you to, either.
"...I sound like a total sap," Makoto laughs, a yawn buried underneath.
"No. You sound just like you," Haruka assures him, voice carrying his smile. The very same you that I love. "And you sound tired. We should sleep."
"I'll see you tomorrow."
"And the day after that."
"And the day after that?"
Haruka just sighs, it's only been one day. "Goodnight, Makoto."
"Sweet dreams, Haru."
The door opens and an exasperated Makoto steps in. "I should've known."
Haruka sits up with a smile. "Good morning."
Makoto just shakes his head. "You know better than this, Haru-chan..." He extends an open palm, a kind gaze.
Some things never change.
Taking the offered hand, Haruka smoothly rises from the lukewarm water. He steps out of the tub, gripping Makoto's hand securely, lovingly. A kiss is planted on his forehead, pressed over his wet bangs.
And some things do.
"Let's get you to school..."
A/N: This finale is defo better than the first one, yep. *nods* I told you I'd wrap it up in ten chapters or less~ It's all kinds of sappy but I'm only a little sorry~
I can't thank you all enough for showering this fic with your love~ So yeah... 'Til next time!