Rating: K+

Warning: M/M

Fandom: Free!

Pairing/Relationship: Tachibana Makoto/Nanase Haruka

Status: Completed

Author: Mapping the Soul

Disclaimer: I do not own anything.

Summary: This time, Haruka falls in love first.

If you read, review and/or favourite, thank you!

IMPORTANT A/N: So the notes for the final time, guys, I'm sorry for the long post. Shion's final chapter is the end. However, it's not exactly a happy one, so if you're looking for that, please wait for Sunset on Misagazaki Shrine instead (will be posted as a one-shot separately). For those that wanted a neutral ending that was meant to be read after chapter two of Shion, I apologise. I had wanted to post all three of them together, but I realised that it's taking way too long and my laptop isn't being kind (it keeps dying). So if you want a happier or neutral ending, please wait around!

I'm sorry to those that are following Shion, because when I post the happy ending, you won't be notified. If anything, please contact me on my tumblr, which can be found on my profile page!

Shion

Chapter Six

The first person he sees when he wakes is Ishikawa-sensei hovering over him. Makoto's eyelids are slightly parted but the light seems to tire him out so he closes his eyes again, but not too tightly. The darkness that seeps in isn't comforting. The doctor turns away from him and he can hear Ishikawa-sensei dismissing his visitors. The brunet isn't sure what time it is, but the lighting in the room is somewhat brighter than night. He's lost track of both time and event.

Ishikawa-sensei returns five minutes later and then lights in the room are dimmer. As if the doctor is reading him, he pulls a chair closer to Makoto's bedside and sits down quietly. He knows that Makoto has questions but he chooses to wait, instead of pushing. Besides that, he's got a little bit of time to sit around and help quell the trauma.

Eventually, the brunet does speak, but makes no effort to move into an upright position to be polite. He's extremely tired and does not want to hurt himself should he pass out again. He supposes that it's very early morning when the sun beings to shine through the window. It is not exactly a warm light but Makoto doesn't really care so long as it isn't darkness that's closing in.

"I never asked," he started, "But it was a bus, wasn't it?"

"Yes it was," Ishikawa-sensei replies, noting that the memories can currently be labelled as unclear.

There is a drawn out pause and only the soft breathing can be heard. The doctor cannot tell what is difficult but he knows better than to give useless input. Everyone has their own struggles with their memories and the difficulties differ for each person. Besides, he has thoughts of his own to process. They need to find some other methods to teach the brunet in dealing with his anxiety. Ishikawa-sensei is not very surprised that the breathing exercises that he had left the brunet with have failed to work. Sometimes, spontaneous recovery—if it even is that, in this case—can be overwhelming and excruciatingly painful.

"Were the only causalities?"

The doctor lifts his head and looks at Makoto from his peripheral vision and he smiles as he notes that Makoto is doing the same. They are both putting each other under some kind of scrutiny. The brunet is searching for the truth or maybe a lie, Ishikawa-sensei doesn't particularly care. Makoto's truth is different from his and his take on it, will be different from what Ishikawa-sensei presents. So while he is on the job, he allows himself the amusement. Maybe Makoto is a little resentful too, seeing as his parents and his friends had not given him much detail into the traffic accident.

"That's right," Ishikawa-sensei confirms, but that's all that he says.

If Makoto truly wants to know, he will have to push. Ishikawa-sensei has a duty of care and he will not be purposefully negligent. The doctor does not need that kind of trouble and he supposes that the brunet doesn't either. If Makoto is not willing and not ready to accept the information, the outcome could make matters even worse than they already are—he is avoiding visitors though he is fit enough to have them after all. It is hard to tell if the brunet is actually upset with his family for keeping the event sealed away, but the doctor is certain that there is an element of self blame on that Makoto has for letting the issue brush pass him.

"How many people were on the bus?" Makoto questions in a roundabout way. Ishikawa-sensei finds that amusing as well, "Have they all be discharged?"

"Including you, nine." The doctor replies, an amused smile playing on his lips, "And I am currently sitting with you, aren't I?"

The brunet seals his lips together tightly, knowing that he shouldn't snap. The doctor looks as if he's having fun in this conversation. However, the last time he had snapped, albeit briefly with Haruka, the guilt did not leave him alone. Makoto also knows that the doctor is just playing along with his game though. The brunet is not asking what he really wants to know—but then again, he's not certain if that is memory either. He can only tell from the vague answers that he is right about the bus. The rest may just be imaginary, especially since the twins had been nearby earlier.

"You may want to rest," the doctor advises, "I don't think you'll be able to avoid them tomorrow."

"Sensei," Makoto says, when he hears the doctor shuffling away, "There was a child on the bus wasn't there?"

Ishikawa-sensei pauses and sits back down. The brunet's voice is trembling, a mix of fear and anxiety running through the words. He can tell that the brunet feels loss, confused and perhaps, responsible as well. The doctor can settle Makoto's feelings (or try to) with the truth but he cannot give any specific details away.

"About the twins age, yes," he discloses the information, but that's all. The rest is something that he is obliged to keep hidden. "Remember, there were no deaths. I believe that I've another appointment. I will come back and check on you after the sunrise."

Ishikawa-sensei gets up immediately and pushes the chair back against the wall. He gives the brunet a questionable smile before turning away. The door slides open and then to a close, quietly. He stands by with a grin on his lips as he folds his arm and then prompts the raven to speak. Haruka's brows are knotted in annoyance.

"I thought you'd left," the doctor says.

The raven lifts his head slowly and shoots a glare at the doctor. He doesn't like Ishikawa-sensei in the least. Haruka feels as if the man has objectives that aren't a doctor's alone. Ishikawa-sensei laughs as he takes a step forward. Haruka follows because he does not want to have any kind of conversation with the doctor directly in front of Makoto's door. That's not safe enough.

"I hope you haven't said anything to upset him," Haruka says, as politely as possible.

"If anything, Makoto upsets himself," Ishikawa-sensei replies, "With the thoughts of his inability and limitations."

Haruka almost reaches out to grab the doctor, but he realises that it is the truth. It makes it difficult to take his anger out on the older man when he presents the undeniable truth. Although the brunet has never said it, his worries about the things that he lacks are hidden behind his smile, but still, evident. Haruka scowls because as irritating as the doctor may be, he hasn't done anything to warrant an attack yet. The doctor takes a turn back to his office to grab some folders.

"You may come back in the morning during visiting hours," he informs, "And maybe, you'd like to answer his questions then. I'm sure he'd appreciate it more if it came from family and friends."

Haruka is left standing alone in the white hall. The nurses and doctors pass by him without paying him any attention in their own urgency. After minutes and minutes of endless reflection, Haruka walks back to Makoto's door, raises his hand once and then lowers it again. No one is looking and he's never been one for following rules, but in the end, he takes a step backwards, then another and turns around.

Tomorrow may be better, Haruka thinks, since he'll have time to think about it tonight. He feels like he is playing right into the doctor's hands but he remembers the distant look in Makoto's eyes when he had come running. It was like Makoto was never there to begin with and that is a scary thought that he does not want to directly revisit. It is very much different from the feeling that he had had during their training camp and once again, the raven does not know how to deal with it.

The past month or so have been relatively easy because Makoto has allowed Haruka to go at his own pace, despite the fact that it should have been the other way around. Perhaps he should have put in more effort to reverse it, Haruka thinks as he pockets his hands. The raven takes one final look at the silent door before he heads home. But home feels a little foreign when Haruka passes by the Tachibana household.

The usually lively house is quiet and all the lights are turned off. He hears the little splashes from the backyard but no one is there to tend to them tonight. Makoto has been spoiling them without his family's knowledge. Haruka would carry on the little legacy if it weren't deemed trespassing and besides, he does not even have any food with him. Lingering for just a moment, Haruka heads up the steps alone. To his surprise, the old practiced steps actually makes him feel lonely.

It is an odd feeling and sensation, Haruka thinks as he takes one step after another. Makoto isn't there to tell him things to keep his mind occupied. The brunet isn't there to slowly fall into his footsteps and smile brightly at it, every time it happens. The road is empty and quiet, and the strays that usually come out of hiding to greet them are nowhere to be seen.

The town is exceptionally quiet for one that has just had a festival. Haruka thinks that there ought to be some drunks—because there is always—roaming around, but instead it is eerily dark and quiet. There are no fusses and maybe that's because everyone that is drunk is in hospital. Haruka curses them too, because a brunch of drunken men had walked across the street without looking and caused and accident. The van that had attempted to dodge them had launched itself into the nearest building and set it on fire.

Haruka thinks that Makoto shouldn't have been in such a place but Iwatobi is such a small town, it is be hard to avoid all that goes on. He hopes that the twins aren't blaming themselves because it is out of their control but that's hypocrisy because he feels the guilt deep within himself.

The first time, Haruka had not been in reach but this time, it is different. He was standing there and his legs had barely moved, not until Makoto had fallen. Even as he reached, all that Haruka had been able to do was call out the brunet's name. And it had been pretty much pointless anyway. The Makoto that usually responded to him had not done so. Haruka's limbs tingle as if to tell him that he'll feel it all the time, the way his arms had uselessly flailed at Makoto's side without hope.

Haruka pauses on the steps again and looks back down. Usually, when he is here, Makoto will be coming, but it hasn't been like that lately and tonight is no exception. The path is empty and dark, not lit but the bright smile and Makoto's presence. It's not scary but the thought that this road may never host Makoto's smile again shakes the foundation that Haruka stands on. A momentary thought, a fleeting fear sets off all sorts of alarms for the rest of Haruka's life. He wishes to run back down the flights of stairs and return to the waiting room but finds himself stuck in place. Rational thought gets the better of him. He knows that he is not welcomed to just linger in the hospital wing.

Furthermore, Makoto may not want to see him anyway. It will be heavy to spring all of the raven's feelings on Makoto suddenly. It is a completely different situation anyway. It is not as simple as running out to sea to bring the brunet back. It seems like that is the only thing that Haruka is confident in, but it is not something that he wants to reoccur anyway. Once is more than enough for this lifetime.

And to top it off, they haven't even managed to solve their last misunderstanding. There's too much at stake to ruin just because of Haruka's impulsive feelings, ones that he is refusing to let in because he still can't quite understand it. Heaving a sigh once he has calmed, the raven drags his feet up the last few steps and into his home. He slips off his shoes at the entrance and stands for a moment as the mirage of Makoto leaning against the wall appears before him.

It takes him a while to move from there, but wherever he goes, there are traces of the brunet. What was once small and insignificant is now a large enough presence to be disturbing. It's not Haruka's first experience with the mirages, but today, the panic makes everything unsettling. They're all fading rather than lingering and Makoto's voice dies out instead of sounding vibrant.

Panicking, Haruka dashes to the bathroom and shuts the door. He runs a bath and jumps right in, sinking himself quickly and hoping that the water will sooth, but nothing of the sort happens. He can picture Makoto coming for him in uniform but it doesn't happen today either. He knows nothing like that will happen and waiting will only leave him waking in a tub of cold water, but he stays anyway.

Makoto has another, unexpected visitor and this time, he's certain that he doesn't know this lady. She doesn't look at him with judging eyes, as if trying to say that he should remember her. The brunet is grateful for that but is fearful at the same time. Even if she doesn't look at him with expectations, she does scrutinise him carefully and that makes him worry just a tiny bit.

"Good morning," she says.

He returns the gesture with a polite bow.

"I don't mean to intrude, but I heard that you had been hospitalised again, so I…" she trails off and then returns with a different thought, "I did visit you before but you were still asleep so…"

"You mean directly after the accident?"

She nods, "I wanted to thank you afterwards but I figured that it was best to wait it out a little bit. I heard that your memory…"

"Thank me?" Makoto asks, tone high, showing that he's confused, "Why would you—are you the child's mother?"

There are finally answers and when it is being presented this easily, Makoto is eager to learn them. He is certain that they will settle him. After all, they will be bringing him closure and they will fill in the gaps that he is currently missing.

"Yes," she says. "She told me that you had reached out to her despite your own condition. I just wanted to say thank you for that kind gesture. It has helped her greatly, knowing that you had risked your life to try and save hers."

Makoto nods along dumbly, trying to understand everything that she is saying. The pieces fall together slowly and start to make sense. He is getting the hint that the child is on a good road to recovery. That is most certainly one of the best pieces of information that Makoto has picked up over the pass month. But if that's the case, why had the doctor been so wishy washy in his answer?

"Please don't look so confused," she says when he is silent, "I hope that this information will be encouraging for you. I hope that you'll see it as an act of bravery and that it will help you recover your memories."

"Ah," Makoto murmurs, "Thank you."

He doesn't know what else he can say. The memory is still vague and he can barely remember what had happened. All he knows is that he had failed to catch that hand and the child's desperate voice still lingers. Even if she is okay now, he still thinks of how traumatising it must have been for her because he had failed to reach her. Makoto doesn't remember what he was feeling at that moment but it doesn't seem like it was fear.

"I'm sorry… are you—"

"I'm fine," Makoto chokes out as smoothly as possible, "Thank you. Please don't force yourself to stay if…"

She nods knowingly, like she's reading him but there's a worried expression on her face. He reassures her again that he will be fine—even if he feels like he will not be. He tells her that she may return to her daughter's side because that is much more important. She gives another worried nod but leaves him quietly.

Makoto leans back against the bed and closes his eyes. He wishes that the image will go away but the more he tries to push it out, the more he seems to see. His psychology may be a little messed up but the memory isn't triggering the response that he expects to have. And it's stressing him more than he'd like it to—the incompetence that he feels; the lack of ability and the possibility that he may not be able to do anything for others when they are in desperate need of it makes his heart twists in knots. Makoto can hear his heart thudding irregularly in his chest and the breathing exercises which he has been encouraged to practice are not working in his favour.

They have before—he's had minor moments of it but not today. Not when he feels like there's something wrong with everything around him. Not when he feels like he's the problem and there's no solution for him. The heart monitor next to him gets louder and faster and that just makes everything worse. Makoto isn't sure how much time passes by before someone comes to calm him down. He knows that there's a button that he can press but his hands are stuck on his shirt instead, desperately hoping for more air.

"Tachibana-kun," the nurse says, patting his back, "It's alright. It'll be okay."

He grabs onto her hand and clenches tightly. She returns the gesture to assure him that she's not going anywhere and eventually, Makoto's breathing evens out. The hand that holds onto him is solid and proof that he isn't going anywhere. It warms up but that's not what Makoto is concentrating on. He just needs to know where he is and where he stands. It takes fifteen minutes before he manages to let go and apologies to the kind nurse.

"I'm sorry…" he says, searching for her name tag, "Miwa-san."

She nods and reaches over to press the button for the doctor again. "It's alright. I'm here."

Makoto stares at her, following carefully when she moves about. She offers him water but even when he's drinking, Makoto keeps his gaze on her. He doesn't know why, he just doesn't want to be in this room by himself. The nurse smiles at him and starts to speak.

"How is the hospital food?" She's a little awkward but it's a start. "I've never heard young ones like you praise the food."

"Ah," Makoto forces a smile, "It's not like home I guess."

Miwa nods slowly in acknowledgement and is saved from conversing when Ishikawa-sensei steps through the door. She waltzes over quickly and explains the situation to which Ishikawa-sensei nods silently. The doctor gives her some instructions and dismisses her. She turns back to Makoto and gives him a warm smile.

"If you need anything later, don't hesitate to call us."

Makoto nods softly. "Ah, yes. Thank you."

Ishikawa-sensei pulls a chair to his side after refilling the cup of water and leaving it on the desk by Makoto's side. The brunet eyes it momentarily and then returns his gaze to the doctor. All the questions pile up again and he doesn't know where to start. Makoto isn't sure if he wants to know about the others or himself at this point. He just wants everything to be better.

"Am I…" he pauses, "Will I…"

"Let's start by telling me what happened." Ishikawa-sensei frowns; the violent reaction wasn't something that he had expected to happen like this. He knows that there is a possibility but—

"A visitor," Makoto confesses, "The child's mother."

"Ah…"

Ishikawa-sensei just makes a sound to respond. He doesn't ask about the details, certain that that is bound to set something off and it'll go wrong—not that it hasn't. He's not too happy about the turn out but there's nothing that he can do to change the encounter. Surely the woman had good intentions. It is just bad timing and Makoto's response is not as he had hoped—or as she had hoped. Makoto reaches over for the cup and drowns it down in five seconds. His throat is drying up as he breathes, slow and steady—but it's not reflective of how he is really feeling.

"Inhale, exhale," Ishikawa-sensei instructs, "Slowly. Count your breaths."

While Makoto does as instructed, Ishikawa-sensei is trying to find a way to relay the information. It'd have been best to have the family and friends here first. They're the ones that stabilise Makoto's life and seeing them first can make all the difference. There is currently not enough support and Ishikawa-sensei as an outsider cannot provide Makoto with what he truly needs.

"How about some air?" Ishikawa-sensei suggests. "Let's go for a walk."

He knows that Makoto is about to think again and that's not good. The mind already wanders thirty percent of the time, however, with nothing to do but reflecting on what he feels is guilt, it'll be worst. Eventually, Makoto nods in acceptance and shuffles off the bed so that they may go. Ishikawa-sensei turns to lead the way but keeps his steps within close distance.

Once outside, they exchange few words about the weather and the colour of the sky. They stay away from the topics of health and Makoto's step slowly falls in line with the doctor's. It's nice to be around people, even if they are not closely related, because human presence is extremely distracting. There's just no time to think when one is thinking about their presentation in front of others. It's a defence mechanism and in Makoto's case, it's not just protecting image.

Their walk lasts fifteen minutes before Makoto's family shows up. They see him through the window of the building and wave. Ishikawa-sensei walks him back inside and settles him back down on the bed. The twins gather around him and keep him occupied while the doctor debriefs the situation again. It's not all that much different; they just need to know about the attack that Makoto has had.

"I believe it is best not to push his memories," Ishikawa-sensei explains gently, "It was a very violent reaction."

They nod quietly, expression still.

"It is important for him to accept it slowly." The doctor adds, "His guilt is quiet deep."

The couple exchange glances and deep frowns. When they return, they don't talk about memories. They don't talk about anything but his health and his internship. They assure him that his co-workers have been informed. This time his mother doesn't cry and for Makoto, that's a great relief.

Nagisa calls early in the morning and Haruka barely makes it out of the bath to catch the phone. It's his home phone anyway—because he's already missed the call on his mobile. His voice croaks as he answers and Nagisa jumps onto him right away.

You're sick aren't you, Haru-chan?

He doesn't even have time to deny it because Nagisa shoots his mouth off loudly. Haruka has to pull the phone away from his ear to ensure that his hearing stays intact. The raven sneezes once and peels the soaked shirt from his body. He had forgotten when he had fallen asleep last night.

Don't even say you're not. Remember the last time you said you were fine? Stay right where you are Haru-chan. I'm going to come over, okay?

"But Makoto—"

I heard. We'll go visit him together, so don't go anywhere. Stay right at home.

Haruka listens to the beeping and then sets the phone down slowly. He feels extremely drained and could do with the nap. If Nagisa is saying so, he can probably believe it. Later, when he opens his eyes to the knocking of the door, Haruka drags himself off the floor and goes to open the door. He thinks that he may still be half asleep when he sees Rei standing there instead.

"Haruka-sempai," Rei says, frowning. "You look horrible."

"Where's Nagisa?" Haruka croaks and attempts to find the blonde behind Rei.

"Inside now," Rei ignores and ushers the raven in. "Quickly. You'll get worst if you're inviting air inside."

Haruka almost stumbles and Rei frowns, but he guides the raven gently by his wrist. His condition is terrible as Rei had claimed before and Rei is glad that he's the one that's here instead of Nagisa. Although Nagisa is a great friend, his loud voice probably won't help with Haruka's condition.

"Nagisa-kun will be visiting Makoto-sempai on our behalf," Rei says, pushing Haruka towards the futon. "Please worry about yourself first."

Haruka's face contorts with a little bit of annoyance and anguish. Makoto probably has questions, as Ishikawa-sensei had said but he probably cannot leave with Rei watching him like a hawk. Retreating into the blanket, Haruka closes his eyes and thinks of Makoto and wonders if he's okay. It probably shows on his face because Rei sighs deeply and speaks up to reassure him.

"Makoto-sempai will be okay," Rei says.

He has professionals looking after him after all.

Rei leaves the room temporarily to warm up the rice porridge that he has made and returns to force it down Haruka's throat. After that, he cleans up after himself and sits at the far corner of the raven's room while reading through a book. Every now and then, he will look up from his book to make sure that the raven is okay, but Rei is meticulous. There's no chance to run and soon, the quiet induces sleep.

Makoto is surprised to see Nagisa without Rei or Haruka. The blonde beams during the whole visit though and leaves no room for questions. Upon his entry to the room, he claims that Rei is currently occupied and Haruka is a little bit under the weather. Nagisa doesn't say how bad it is though (not that he knows, Rei has not yet messaged him). Besides, when Haruka is sick, it is a big deal. The raven has always pushed the issue out of mind and it is not until he collapses, that he allows others to take care of him.

"Mako-chan."

"Hm?"

"A-are you okay?" Nagisa questions quietly, "I…"

"I'm okay," Makoto says, shifting, "No physical injuries."

Nagisa nods in acknowledgement and comes closer, sitting on the edge of Makoto's bed instead of the chair nearby. He smiles brightly, peering deeply into Makoto's green marbled eyes but doesn't say much. When he parts his lips again, the seriousness of his actions is gone.

"Looks like you're still eating well," he claims casually.

Makoto laughs, the sound echoes. "Yeah, it's not too bad."

"Better than three meals of mackerel a day, isn't it?"

The brunet chuckles at that. That's okay as well, seeing as he as grown used to it (again) and Haruka doesn't seem to have any problems, health wise as well. He does however, feel a little lonely without Haruka and Rei around but doesn't say. That's exactly like denouncing the importance of Nagisa's presence, the one who is here right now. Makoto is incapable for doing something like that and feels more conscious of it now more than ever.

Makoto replies gently at everything that Nagisa says. Sometimes, the smaller blonde draws a long laughter and everything else fades. It makes him feel light and airy, but only momentarily. When Nagisa leaves, the laughter goes with him and the twins are the ones that stay behind. They seat themselves on Makoto's bed and tell him to read. That is only distracting until they fall asleep in his arms.

Haruka visits him only twice the next week. The raven is extremely quiet as he sits with Makoto. He fiddles with his fingers and his eyes dart around, never meeting Makoto's gaze for long. They are awkward in their speech and Makoto cannot bring the apology up because he doesn't want to potentially upset Haruka again (though he probably should to clear the air anyway).

"Are you sure you should be out and not in bed?" Makoto asks, concerned.

"Ah… yeah," Haruka says in return slowly.

Nagisa is probably the one that had passed on the message. However, even with the knowledge, everything else feels completely out of place and Makoto doesn't know what to say. He thinks about their misunderstanding again but the apology for what happened at the beach is stuck in his throat and Haruka is not saying much either (probably because he feels guilty). That makes two of them, leaving the guilt in the air unresolved and growing heavier by the minute.

"Ah… have you… the plans to return for the semester." Makoto croaks out rather incoherently.

"Yeah," Haruka says.

He explains little about what he is planning for the last semester and returns the question politely. He isn't sure if Makoto has an answer but it seems that he has been looking into it as well. The brunet's plan is simple and exactly the same as it had been when he had first left Tokyo. There is not much that he wants to change anyway, having near the end of his degree and is doing well in his internship.

They'll welcome him back with open arms and in contrast, Haruka has many places that he can go. That is where they are different and right now, home is probably the only place that Makoto wants to be. However, Makoto doesn't say that outright, he avoids it gently, because he still hasn't decided on anything. There are things that he'll have to do after he is discharged again before he can say where he will go.

"But Iwatobi is home, isn't it?" Makoto smiles gently as his eyes crinkle to hide the beautiful green gems.

Haruka nods slowly after some self debate. "Yeah, we'll always come back here, won't we?"

Makoto beams at that and Haruka feels the butterflies settling. If anything, Iwatobi is the place that he'll always find Makoto. It's reassuring enough at this point that Haruka will never completely lose sight of the brunet.

Makoto finds the little child, practicing her rehabilitation exercises outside and her mother is lending a supportive hand. It's his day of discharge and the twins are walking by his side, again, determined once again, to keep their brother safe. His father is tagging along quietly so that he does not steal the twins' thunder. Makoto steals one last glance at the child and her mother before he moves on. She is smiling but it looks like it's painful and difficult. Makoto almost sinks but the twins' gentle voices cradle him home.

"Onii-chan…"

Makoto turns back, smiles. "Coming."

The brunet links his hands with the twins again and they're extra careful as they walk this time. Half way home, they run into his mother whom is carrying the groceries. Makoto almost rushes over, but the twins beat him to it. They grab what they can carry and walk besides their mother, leaving Makoto with his father.

The man who is as passive as Makoto is, when it comes to confrontation, walks beside his son slowly. The smile that Makoto is currently wearing is enough for him and he doesn't want to lose that—though it's all possible given the recent occurrence of events. The two of them watch their family members with warm smiles as they trail behind like snails. When they reach home, Makoto halts at the little stone and his father places a reassuring hand on his shoulder. The brunet looks up and meets his father's gaze through the glasses and smiles back. He nods knowingly and then leaves Makoto alone as he ushers the twins inside.

Makoto can read the concern and then the approval for whatever it is that he is planning to do. He feels a little unsettled but also knows that it is his responsibility and ultimately his choice. The decisions that he makes will affect his life more than theirs. At this point, Makoto isn't even sure of what he is supposed to be deciding, but there are a whole bunch of life questions floating around.

Before he heads inside to join his mother in making dinner, Makoto kneels before the stone and clasp his hands together. He says a few words mentally as an offering and lingers as his thoughts float around endlessly. They run one from train of thought to another and Makoto cannot pinpoint where his worries lie. His last thought is on Haruka. Beautiful Haruka with soft and silky raven looks, ocean gem eyes and a passion for swimming. The warmth that comes with thinking of Haruka stirs up all sorts of emotions but Makoto is still unable to figure it out. They run on colours and on taste but they never stop. It lingers lightly on pink cotton candy before he is called and all is dispelled.

The next two weeks pass by in peaceful silence. Makoto works diligently to fix the extra mess that he had added to his internship and Haruka stays out of view, but close enough to be on watch. The gap grows because Makoto does not have enough time to pursue the issue and Haruka's careful distance.

He still sees Haruka on occasion and although it is different from the first time Makoto had woken up. Haruka still converses with him and they walk each other home often. Occasionally, he'll look at Haruka's shadow and feel sad and then guilty. The thing that he had wanted to say, escapes him every time and because Haruka never brings it up, it becomes the norm to dismiss it. The pink cotton candy taste fades, easily, turning pale and paler until its white and the sugary taste is ground to dust. Before he knows it, Makoto doesn't remember the feeling of it either.

If he cannot remember, perhaps it isn't all that important. The path of thinking that goes down probably isn't helpful but it is damn tempting. It's safe after all. And it doesn't seem to be hurting anyone, not Makoto and not Haruka. And so, the two of them go on like that, speaking less about feelings and even less about memories. But of course they care, quietly, softly, in a way that it doesn't hurt.

The Tachibana family does not allow Makoto or Haruka to take the bus to the station. Instead, the brunet's father calls in late and personally drives the two, since they'll be carrying luggage back. The man, with a little bit more strength than his wife, sends them off, because although worried, he knows that they need to return to finish the year.

The whole ride is more awkward than Haruka can say—but he doesn't anyway, so no one really tries to solve it. The Tachibana family see them off at the station, waving brightly and helping the luggage onto the train. They are desperately praying for no trouble, but they cannot stop Makoto from going back to finish his degree.

Makoto stands by the window as the train takes off and continues to wave until his parents and the twins have run away from view. Haruka stands by his side too, silently, waiting until he is ready to move towards their seats. It is a small and quiet concern that Makoto repays with by smiling warmly.

Halfway through their trip, Makoto brings out the packed lunchboxes to share with Haruka. That is the only time that they converse briefly on their ride back. Makoto obtains some old information about their living arrangements and the rest of the trip ends with Makoto nodding off. Haruka doesn't wake him until they arrive and even then, he is gentle about it, so that he doesn't startle the brunet into another attack.

In Tokyo, everything is different. They find things to talk about but they have also gotten good at avoiding the issue. Makoto does not want to upset Haruka with the things that he may say and Haruka has stopped actively wishing for the memories to return. After all, they look like they can only work to do more damage.

Sometimes they walk the same path and exchange minor talks of their day. Others, they spend crossing paths without meeting. The fear is too deeply engraved onto Haruka's soul and as always, Makoto does not probe into the issues that the raven does not wish to talk about. It passes daily as endurance and then it's a normal thing.

They live until it is normal to be the way that they are. They function well with and then without each other. It is not a necessity; not when Makoto is fine without his memories. Haruka learns to deal with it, telling himself that it is something that he has always told the brunet that he wanted. It makes the process easier, because Makoto is finally giving Haruka the space that he wants—intentional or not.

"I'm not broken."

Makoto had raised his voice and then everything was silent. His words seem to echo distantly and then rebound on the walls to come back to slap Haruka violently. The raven is completely frozen, mouth still agape in his reply, but the words come out soundless. None of his actions had meant to draw out this kind of reaction from Makoto. The brunet is not broken and Haruka has never thought so, but perhaps he had been a little too careful in his handling.

"I…"

Haruka shuts his mouth again in fear that anymore words will destroy the thin line that he is standing on. The raven has been and still is, treading very carefully, but he is still overstepping the lines. It is difficult, when he doesn't understand and even harder, when Makoto closes off on him.

"Sorry," Makoto mutters his apology first, "I didn't mean to snap at you. I just—"

"Frustrated," Haruka says. "I'm… the same. I'm sorry."

Makoto nods very slowly in return, the guilt of his tone from before evident in his expression. The frown is deep and grows heavier by each second that passes. The raven fiddles with his fingers as Makoto lowers his gaze and bites his lips before coming to a conclusion that they both need some space—Makoto probably needs it more than Haruka at this point.

"I'll just… I'll be at the studio," he announces and slips away when Makoto nods.

Haruka shoves books into his bag and then sets off for the rest of the day. The studio at university has all the supplies that he needs but if he cannot bring himself to paint, then he will try to read. Haruka slips out of the door quietly, as Makoto cleans up the dishes in the kitchen. They have a soft goodbye that is barely heard, but the raven moves on so that he is out of sight. He catches the tremble in Makoto's movement but cannot bring himself to go back. As of late, all of the raven's concern has come off deep and it seems to make itself more as a burden than anything else.

Therefore, Haruka continues on his way quietly, to give them both more breathing spaces. If he stays, they'll have another fight because of his concern and Makoto's sudden perception that he's seen to be broken. The two of them go on with the same thought processes for the rest of the day, but their phones remain silent. The fear is too great and so Haruka ends up sleeping in the corner of the studio while Makoto waits up.

Graduation dawns upon them sooner than Haruka expects it to and all the fears come crashing down on him, like it had when he had first about Makoto's condition. Iwatobi's importance surfaces and grazes Haruka harshly. Even if the brunet had decided to study away from home, Iwatobi is the place that he will always return to. Even without the memories, there is an internal attachment. Haruka can tell because he has one to the small town as well.

Makoto hasn't smiled the smile that lights up a whole room, in a long time, so when he does, Haruka's mood is lifted. Momentarily.

"I was offered a place back at home," Makoto says, speaking of his internship workplace.

Haruka's hands flinches and he gives up reaching for the cup of water.

"I heard that you were offered placement as well. You've been granted your own studio, haven't you?"

Underneath the table, Haruka clenches his fists together and answers quietly. The answer is yes, but he hasn't actually agreed to anything yet. He wonders how Makoto knows but rumours on campus tend to move relatively fast, whether they hold any kind of truth or not.

"That's great," Makoto exclaims, genuinely happy for his friend. "Are you looking forward to it?"

Haruka almost nods along dumbly because of Makoto's smile. But he stops himself and shakes his head gently to tell the brunet that he is still unsure. The brunet follows the raven in his frown and mimics his expression to bring small laughter to their table.

"Well, you still have some time to think about it." Makoto says soothingly.

Haruka nods and bites back on all of the things that he wants to say. Iwatobi is home to the both of them and Haruka will eventually return to that place. However, what worries him is the gap that will widen even more. It is already out of his control, but without being there to moderate it, they will probably end up losing.

They have been so busy, Haruka loses track of time. The Tachibana family have decided to come to celebrate and attend the ceremony with them. When Haruka hears, he does a very quick last minute clean up of the small apartment. They will not be able to sleep in the small apartment but it needs to be presentable for their visit at least. Makoto laughs as Haruka trips over the set of books that he had just stacked and was planning to put under the bed.

"Sorry," Makoto says with a stifled laughter and an offering hand, "C'mon."

Haruka grimaces, but grabs onto the firm hand and gets to his feet. Clicking his tongue in annoyance, the raven mutters a small word of thanks as he fixes the stack again and then pushes underneath his bed quickly to avoid another fall. The brunet chuckles as he proceeds to move the artwork to another place to make room for their guests. It looks a lot clean by the time they're done moving things and shifting their furniture around. Haruka is mildly satisfied but then remembers that they are out of tea to serve. Heaving another exhausted sigh, he kindly asks Makoto finish off their dishes as he makes a quick run to the store.

"I can do it…" Makoto offers gently.

"No, it's alright," Haruka declines, "You should be here to greet them."

The raven pockets his wallet and makes a quick run for it, taking it as a chance to get some exercise done while he is at it. He jogs into the convenience store and slows down to find the matcha green tea and then jogs on spot as he stands by the counter. The lazy store clerk scans his item, mutters a price and gives him his change in a slow manner. Haruka waits patiently, a little thankful for the time away from their apartment. He has room to breathe for now and will, have some time to fix a new silence for when he returns.

The raven needs to be careful around Makoto's family. It is important that he doesn't create problems for them during their stay or worry them, with his interactions with Makoto. After all, neither party wants any more damage to be done.

"Have a nice day," the clerk mutters unenthusiastically.

"Yeah." Haruka mutters back even though he is fairly certain that nice means staying on the safe side of things.

Everything gets buried under lively conversations. The twins occupy a lot of Makoto's time, demanding that he take them to all the different places that he knows of because it is their very first time in Tokyo. He complies while his parents drift in and out.

Haruka is busy with the last minute preparations. Everything that he has done is going up on display in the gallery and there isn't ever enough time to work on it, with the ceremony around the corner. They work as they have been for months and the worry slips Haruka's mind as Makoto's attachment to his family and his siblings grow with every second that he spends with them.

And unfortunately, Haruka forgets that if there's anything other than the ocean that can completely take Makoto away from him, it is the twins.

Haruka seems to be the only one that's surprised. Makoto apologises profusely.

"Did I forget to inform you?" He says, apologetically.

Haruka's flabbergasted expression answers him more than words ever will. Perhaps he had and it had slipped the raven's mind. Neither of them knows. They barely exchange words about topics of conflict anymore. It is too hard to fix things until perfection and perfection no longer holds any value for them. Makoto and Haruka have lived the past long months by flowing with the current.

"I…"

Haruka looks around himself and finds all of Makoto's things lying around. It means that their apartment is empty. If he had not passed by and caught the brunet and his family at the station he would have completely missed Makoto's departure. Despite everything become completely calm and innocent, Haruka's panic clouds all of his judgement. He doesn't hurl himself at Makoto violently, but instead, he steps slowly towards the brunet and grabs onto his shoulders, eyes misty and hands trembling with a weak grip.

"Didn't you say that you wanted to swim with me?" Haruka asks, voice splitting, "That it has to be me and no one else?"

Makoto looks completely lost as if the raven is spitting nonsense and Haruka regrets his sudden outburst immediately. The raven hopes that he hasn't triggered another unwanted memory and waits in anguish as Makoto takes a step away from him for personal space. Makoto breaks out of Haruka's grip and rubs his shoulder free of the pain and offers a half-smile. He still looks more apologetic and Haruka's guts churn as if to mock him for being the cruel one.

"I'm sorry," Makoto apologises sadly.

Haruka parts his lips to ask Makoto to stop with the apologies but the words stick to his throat like honey. Even if he says that, nothing is going to change. Makoto's words do not equate to memories and no matter how he tries, Makoto will not be able to say that which he had said that he had needed to. Too much time has passed and the words have simply slipped them by. It is hard to bring it back and with the same amount of weight.

To this day, Haruka cannot be certain of Makoto's words but he is sure that it is heavy. He remembers the way that Makoto's lashes had fluttered, how he had fidgeted and rubbed his hands together to dry the sweat and how, his feet remained glued as if he did not want to leave. But here they are again at the same station. Makoto is standing with his family, completely ready and willing to turn away. And this time, Makoto has nothing to say.

Haruka parts his lips several times but his thought is always cut off by something. The words that he wants to say jab him the ribs and it makes everything hurt. He already knows that he cannot change anything at this point. They are too far gone, with luggage and family all ready to go.

"But…" the brunet says hopefully, "If you come back to Iwatobi, we can always go swimming."

Haruka's emotions are a mess deep within him and he cannot bring up a coherent enough response to that. He wants to scream but the honey seems to keep finding its way down his throat. Ran and Ren are standing nearby, looking hopeful and Makoto's parents are just the same. Haruka does not know how to say and do the things that he wants to without upsetting them.

"Na—Haru?"

Makoto smiles warmly and Haruka likes the way that the brunet is now willing to address him like had always had, but also hates the distance that he closes. Over time, Haruka has come to realised that it is not closing up enough. There's always a line between them and although thin, it is strong and evident.

"Makoto…" he says slowly. "You… I… want to swim with you."

He pauses. Makoto blinks.

"Always." He repeats, voice desperate as it breaks, "Always."

Something breaks in Makoto's features and his body twitches in panic. Haruka barely has any time to analyse the reaction carefully as the twins' voices reach them. Makoto's attention is drawn away and he chuckles lightly as he turns to find them trying to hurl his things onto the train. He lets out a small laugh and excuses himself politely from Haruka's side. The raven is grateful for the break in their conversation. Makoto had looked like he was going to become a mess right then and there because of his simple words. Haruka does not want a repeat of his break down.

"Haru-kun?" Makoto's other calls gently. "Are you alright?"

He looks at her hopelessly and she frowns as she pats his shoulders.

"He'll be alright," she assures him. "We'll look after him. And you can always come to check up on him, right?"

The raven nods and Makoto returns after fixing the luggage onto the train. His mother pats him on the shoulders and leaves them again. This time, there are no twins to drag Makoto away and Haruka isn't sure if he feels grateful for that. There is a clenching on his heart that tightens as the seconds pass by and it is definitely not a good thing.

"You can call me if you need anything." Makoto offers, though he knows that the raven barely uses his phone.

Haruka frowns but agrees so that he does not add to Makoto's worry. Even if he looks content to finally be going home, there's the twitching in his features that show that he's uncomfortable with leaving Haruka behind. There are things that he is worrying about. It is mainly diets and colds from staying too long on the bathtub. However, Haruka has often said that he does not need to concern himself with that and so Makoto barely articulates it anymore, in fear that it will strain their current relationship even more.

"And come home," Makoto adds with sincerity, "We'll definitely go swimming. I can't imagine swimming without you."

Haruka lifts his gaze and steals a glance at the green gems that aren't clouded by fear or doubt. Maybe Makoto doesn't remember but his words are genuine. Ever since Makoto lost his memories, he hasn't gone swimming without Haruka. They've gone with Nagisa and Rei but since their return to Tokyo, Makoto has accompanied Haruka to the pool on a fairly regular basis. That is a great difference from the time before the accident, when Makoto had often been too busy to join him in the water.

"Y-yeah," Haruka murmurs in return.

The brunet finally cracks a smile. "Then, I'll be waiting."

Haruka stares at Makoto, long and hard enough to burn a hole, but the promise keeps him smiling genuinely. It is like a promise to start again. It is an offer to start from scratch at the place that they had grown up, without restraint, without fears and the deep, complex, heavy memories. It takes a long time for Haruka to process everything in his mind but he thinks that maybe it is good enough that he remembers. After all, there is still time for them.

"Yeah," Haruka agrees, more confidently this time, a small smile on his cheeks. "I'll definitely come."

Home, is omitted from that but the tone that underlines his words show. Makoto's expression becomes brighter, eyes crinkling as he widens the smile. Even if the memories are gone, they both know that it will be home when Haruka returns to Makoto.

Fin.


Thank you so much for sticking around with Shion. The response to the story has been overwhelming! The story ends here, because I wanted a progression from one point to another for Haruka and Makoto. If you're waiting around for Sunset on Misogazki Shrine or Reaching You, they'll probably end up being more satisfying, but I hoped you enjoyed the whole thing altogether and I apologise in advance for the delay that it will take.