Rin snapped the strap of his goggles before wading into the ocean. Haru, of course, was already ahead of him, completely lost to the outside world. The rest of the Iwatobi Swim Club were still lagging behind on the beach, undressing and coating themselves in sunscreen, along with the Samezuka Swim Team, save for himself. Or, rather, himself and Aiichiro, who had just gone barreling past him, spraying him with sea foam in his wake.
"Oi!" He called after the younger teen. Aiichiro didn't seem to hear him, or if he had, didn't seem to care. "Tch" Rin ducked under as a wave came rolling towards him. When he resurfaced, he could barely see Haru anymore, and Aiichiro was just ahead of him, beginning his strokes. Moving just a little further from shore, but not so far as to get in Aiichiro's way, Rin took in a deep breath before starting his strokes. He didn't like not being able to use the momentum of the diving block to immediately increase his speed, but that was the point of this training exercise, although he speculated it was also a ploy for Seijuurou to see his little sister in a bathing suit.
When Rin glanced to the shore he could tell he had gone far enough and it was time to turn around, which meant stopping completely, since there was no wall to kick against, and starting again from another agonizing standstill. He increased his speed at a rapid rate and had soon come close to the point where he had started. He could make out more of both teams doing their laps at varying distances from each other, though he couldn't tell who anyone was at this distance, except for Haru. He could never mistake Haru's speed and elegance for any other swimmer.
"Matsuoka-senpai!" Rin stopped. He couldn't tell who had just called out to him, although only one person here today called him that, but he could tell immediately that something was wrong. "Senpai!" The voice was identifiable now; it was definitely Aiichiro.
"Nitori?!" Rin called, spinning around. Just a little farther out he could make out Aiichiro struggling to keep his head above the water. Something bad had clearly happened and his teammate was in danger. Rin swam towards him with every bit of strength he had. Bobbing his head out of the water so he could see Aiichiro, his eyes grew wide in terror that the boy was no longer there. He pushed himself to swim faster and prayed he could grab him before he sank too deep.
'Just a little further, hold on Nitori!' He made it to the spot Aiichiro had been and dived down, arms swinging frantically for some part of his body he could grab onto to pull him up. His heart nearly stopped when his fingers brushed flesh and he quickly wrapped his arms around the smaller swimmer's chest, pulling him up so that his head was out of the water. "NITORI!" Rin yelled, noticing that Aiichiro wasn't moving. "Say something, damn it!" He didn't wait for a response before pulling his teammate towards the shore. 'Hang in there, Nitori!'
By the time he had reached the shore, Gou and Seijuurou had noticed the problem and were waiting for him. "What happened?" Seijuurou huffed. He had clearly been racing as fast as he could to make it back and check on them.
Rin didn't stop for explanations. He laid Aiichiro out on the sand and pressed his ear to the motionless boy's mouth, listening for breathing. "Damn it!" He exclaimed, balling his fists and thrusting them into Aiichiro's chest. One, two, three, four, five... Water came spilling out with each press. "Don't make me kiss you." Rin pressed his ear to Aiichiro's face again, but there was nothing. Without even thinking, Rin took a deep breath and tilted Aiichiro's head, pinching off his nose, and breathed into his mouth.
"Oh God," He heard Gou whimper. More of the swimmers were beginning to gather around them, as well as onlookers from the beach, all muttering similar sentiments. Someone, although Rin couldn't tell who, was calling for help.
Rin wasn't ready to give up. He pumped Aiichiro's chest five more times. Water seemed to have stopped coming out now. Another deep breath into his mouth... Rin was thrown back as Aiichiro's head sprang up. He was coughing and wheezing and more water was still finding its way out of him, but he had regained his consciousness and was breathing.
Rin rubbed his forehead where he was certain a bump would form later and sank back into the sand. He couldn't hear anyone speaking, he couldn't even see anyone but Aiichiro, and he found himself feeling a bit light headed.
"It... Hurts..." Aiichiro wheezed.
"Of course it hurts," Rin was speaking without thinking. He couldn't think. "Your lungs were just full of salt water."
"N-no," Aiichiro coughed. He touched his left leg. Rin watched as Seijuurou came closer to examine it.
"Jellyfish sting." He practically breathed, still clearly shaken by the scene that had just unfolded before him. Rin leaned forward and looked closer. Sure enough, there was a thin red line that ran the length of Aiichiro's calf.
"Can you move it?" Rin asked. Aiichiro was still coughing too much to speak clearly. Instead, he tried, winced, and shook his head 'no'. So that was why he couldn't swim. Rin positioned himself behind his kouhai and allowed him to rest against his shoulder. Aiichiro leaned into him, still wheezing, but calming down now, and closed his eyes. Rin stayed like this with him until the paramedics arrived.
Rin had lost himself to his thoughts while jogging after practice. He hadn't been able to bring himself to see Aiichiro in the hospital; he was afraid to see him, if he was being honest. He'd heard he would be getting out soon, though, and being roommates, he'd have to face him eventually. But whenever he thought of him, his mind went to the panic, the fear that he wouldn't be able to reach him in time- and the recurring dream he'd been having ever since that he hadn't.
Not even noticing the sound of someone coming up behind him, Rin carried on his silent run, berating himself for not being there during his friend's recovery. It didn't help that nearly everyone he spoke to wanted to hear all about what had happened, or ask how Aiichiro was doing, as if he ought to know everything.
"Matsuoka-senpai," A breathless voice called behind him. Rin stopped but didn't turn. "Wait for me!" He could hear the footsteps, the labored breathing, the slight wheeze. Aiichiro stopped just behind him.
"Idiot!" Rin reprimanded, turning to give him a sideways glance. "What do you think you're doing, running after me like that? You just got out of the hospital!" Aiichiro lifted himself to look at his senpai.
"I'm sorry," He apologized. "But I really wanted to see you." Rin waited for him to catch his breath. "I wanted to thank you."
"Huh?" Rin's brow crinkled. Was this kid an idiot? He could do that in the dorm! What was he doing over-exerting himself like that?!
Aiichiro looked a bit sheepishly at Rin. "I was told you were the one who saved me. That even though I wasn't breathing, you never gave up on me." Rin flushed.
"W-well, what was I supposed to do?" He grunted. "Let you up and die on me?" Aiichiro smiled.
"Thank you, Matsuoka-senpai," He bowed low. Rin scoffed, and he may have found it silly, but seeing Aiichiro not only running, but running his mouth again, did more for him than he could have expected.
"Yeah," He turned away before Aiichiro could see his reddened face. "Listen, I'm going to finish my run, I'll see you back at the dorm." As he jogged away, he called over his shoulder, "And don't over-exert yourself!"
When Rin finally dragged himself back to his room, Aiichiro was already asleep, looking peaceful and breathing quite normally; however, his silence and stillness reawakened Rin's frightful visions of him sprawled on the beach, and he found himself watching the younger boy's chest rise and fall for some time before he was reassured enough to go to sleep himself.
He had just about drifted into another nightmare when a sudden gasp from the bunk above him caused his eyes to dart wide open. Practically falling out of bed, Rin quickly got up to check on Aiichiro. He still appeared to be sleeping, however, the peaceful look from before was nowhere evident. Instead, Aiichiro's face was anguished. Before Rin could reach out to wake him, he heard him cry weakly, "Senpai..." That was it. Climbing the ladder and crawling up beside Aiichiro, Rin firmly shook his shoulders, waking him with a start.
"Nitori," He called softly. Aiichiro looked at Rin with wide, tear-filled eyes.
"S-senpai..." He cried. Rin didn't understand. Had it been a bad dream? Or was something really wrong? Before he could ask, Aiichiro sat up and held his head in his hands. "I-I'm sorry, Matsuoka-senpai." His cries came out muffled. Rin sat beside him quietly, not sure if he should say anything. "I wanted to tell you before, but you stayed out so late..."
"Tell me what?" Rin questioned. His tone came out harsher than he would have liked. He really was genuinely concerned.
"I can't remember anything after the jellyfish stung me," Aiichiro replied, moving his hands to wipe away his tears. "But when I sleep, I have horrible dreams. I can't breathe, and my lungs feel like they're on fire. It's happened every night, and I wanted to warn you that I might cry out, and ask you to please wake me." Aiichiro couldn't look at Rin; his eyes were still full of tears and his face was red with embarrassment. He was afraid that Rin might find him irritating after that and couldn't stand to see it confirmed on his face.
"Tch," Rin moved toward the ladder. Aiichiro watched him sadly as he disappeared back into his own bed without saying anything. Rubbing his eyes, Aiichiro was about to lie back down when he was hit in the side of the head with a pillow. Rin reappeared, climbing the ladder, and, taking his pillow, plopped it down beside Aiichiro's.
"M-Matsuoka-senpai..?" Aiichiro questioned, confused. Rin propped himself up on his side, his back to the wall.
"You're not the only one having nightmares, Nitori." He said quietly. Aiichiro caught his eye and saw an emotion he'd never seen there before. Something between sadness and guilt was the best way he could describe it. Rin continued, "Do you know how traumatic it was to carry your limp ass to shore, and then to find out you weren't breathing?" Aiichiro looked away without speaking. "If I hadn't been running on adrenaline and instinct, I probably would have broken down before I could administer CPR, and you might not be sitting here right now."
"I already tried to say thank you for that-" Aiichiro was cut off.
"I'm not looking for praise, Nitori!" Rin growled. "I just want you to understand that you weren't the only one to experience trauma that day!" Aiichiro laid back and turned his head toward Rin. "I thought you were dead! I really was scared that you were gone!"
"I'm sorry," Aiichiro apologized. "I didn't even consider how you must have felt." Rin sighed.
"Idiot." He moved closer to Aiichiro, draping his arm over him. Rin's warmth was comforting to Aiichiro, but the sudden closeness caught him off guard. An awkwardly quiet moment passed before Rin realized that this wasn't exactly normal behavior, especially from him. "Maybe if we're together we won't have nightmares." He explained weakly.
Aiichiro blushed, though Rin couldn't see it. He thought for sure he could feel his racing heart, but when he looked closer, Rin was already asleep. Aiichiro positioned himself comfortably beside his senpai, his face buried in Rin's chest. In a twilight daze of near unconsciousness, his arms found their way around Rin's waist, and Rin's arm around him tightened. Neither of them had nightmares again that night.