AN - I came back from the dead to write Free! fanfiction. Oh, yes. Coughs this completely ignores High Speed! Just keep that in mind.

Sleep Habits

Makoto clings to him in his sleep.

It's a bad habit he's always held, ever since they knew each other as toddlers, stemming as far back as the very first time they spent the night together.

It is Haruka coming to Makoto's place the first time they have a sleepover; the boys are five years old and they — meaning Makoto, with Haruka "tolerating it" — eagerly plan to be up all night playing. The boys pass out shortly before ten on the same bed, facing each other, arms and legs tangling.

Adding the body heat of another person makes it awfully warm at night, he thinks — but it's not an uncomfortable feeling, either, so he passively accepts it.

Sprawling together like that becomes their mutual sleep habit for the nights spent together for many years.

It's only when the boys are nine and, this time at Haruka's place, and his mother comes to wake the two up that this changes. As Haruka rouses from a peaceful slumber to find his mother inexplicably frowning at the sight of the two of them entangled so, the routine is forcibly put to a stop.

She calls him into her lap after Makoto has left to patiently, but firmly, say that the boys are too old to be sleeping together in such a manner.

Truthfully, he doesn't quite understand the argument there — he knows for a fact that his mother and father sleep just as close at night, and they're much older.

However, when he brings this question up, she only frowns further and corrects, "Your father and I are married. You and Makoto are not, nor can you be. It's wrong."

Even though he doesn't think it's wrong, or know how it could be, he listens to her as she is his mother and her word is therefore law, and brings the issue up to Makoto the next time he comes to sleep over.

The two lie facing each other on the bed, and when Makoto moves to place his hands and legs inside of Haruka's space — he moves back, making the other boy frown in puzzlement.

He explains slowly and carefully what his mother has told him, and when done, doesn't understand why Makoto looks so utterly dejected. It's just a part of growing up, isn't it? They can't act like children forever.

It also seems like the other boy seems to be grasping some concept that he himself is still unaware of, one that makes him resistant to the situation whereas Haruka is simply going with the flow. When pressed about it though, he only smiles unhappily and says he'll try his best not to invade Haruka's personal bubble.

For the first time, he turns his back on Makoto to sleep that night.

He's unsure whether he can't sleep because of the eyes he feels boring into him from behind, or because he feels bizarrely cold despite it being mid-summer.

They lie awake for hours, and when his mother comes to peek in on them on her way to bed, they both feign sleep. She seems content with the new sleeping arrangement and comes in to kiss both boys on the cheek before checking out for the night.

The other boy's breathing finally evens out as he manages to fall to sleep just after midnight. With the uncomfortable sensation of eyes upon him gone, Haruka also slowly starts to doze off.

And then it happens.

Makoto, completely unconsciously, moves. He scoots forward into his sleep, until he is pressed up against the blue-eyed boy. His arms, as if with a mind of their own, encircle his friend, pulling him even closer.

Suddenly, Haruka is wide awake.

Somehow, this seems even closer than how they normally sleep. It is also in direct defiance of his mother's wishes.

Frowning, Haruka attempts to move away, only for the sleeping boy's arms to tighten around him. Huffing, he looks back just to make sure Makoto is really asleep and not pulling some sort of weird joke.

He is, and… a face that had been troubled just minutes ago when he'd chanced a glance at it now seemed perfectly at ease.

When he struggles harder to free himself from the boy's grasp, Makoto lets out a small whine of protest and stirs just enough to free him.

Not that it does much good, as the moment Haruka is out of his hands he comes searching for the other boy again.

Haruka lies in the darkness for a while, and contemplates his options.

Ultimately, his decision is to reach over to his alarm clock and set it for some ungodly early hour — seven o'clock, for even his mother wouldn't be crazy enough to be awake at such a time on the weekend, and though his father might be he wouldn't dare check in on them for fear of waking them.

He settles back into Makoto's arms; the other boy sighs in content.

His mother would be unhappy… if she knew.

For now, he's, at the very least, not uncomfortable like this. It's no longer cold.

He'll confront his friend about it in the morning. Right now, he'll sleep.

When the blaring alarm rouses him, fist slamming into the snooze button with a vengeance, he discovers that Makoto is still asleep and, yes, still has his arms around him.

They spent the entire night sleeping like that.

The brunet's grip is much laxer now, though, and Haruka pulls out of it with only a small whimper of objection from the other boy.

Haruka shakes him into awareness, and despite the rude awakening the boy greets him with a sunny smile.

"Good morning, Haru-chan. Even though it took me a while to get to sleep, I feel like I still slept really well. How about you?"

He slept well, as well, despite the fact that he had been hugged tightly by someone all night. For Haruka, who hates being touched, this is strange; not in the good way, either.

"You may have slept well, but you didn't keep to yourself. Also, I've told you before not to say –chan," he grumbles.

Makoto blinks blearily, rubs his eyes, and frowns in befuddlement. "What? I don't remember touching you at all."

"You did it in your sleep. You pressed up against me and held your arms around my waist."

This is news to the other boy. "Eh? Did I really do something like that?"

For some reason, he's blushing.

Haruka huffs and crosses his arms before turning to his dresser, intending to get changed. "You did. Don't do it again or I'll be mad."

There's a pause, and then behind him an uncomfortable laugh, before — "How embarrassing. I'm very sorry, Haru-ch…uh, Haru. I promise I'll try not to let it happen again."

"Then it's fine."

Only, it's not fine.

Despite his best efforts and good behavior, the moment Makoto falls asleep he reaches for Haruka. Sometimes, Haruka is still awake when it happens; sometimes, he simply wakes — he always rises before Makoto, who is quite the heavy sleeper — to find arms not belonging to him in places they shouldn't be.

He confronts Makoto about it again, once, twice. The third time it happens, they mutually agree that perhaps they shouldn't sleep over at each other's houses for a while, though Makoto looks to be holding back tears and Haruka feels a little unsettled, as well.

It's well over a year before the two spend a night alone together again, just the two of them. That year puts something of a strain on their relationship.

The sleepover issue pervades its way into Makoto and Haruka's daily lives, creating a tension that had never been there before. For three months things start drifting apart.

It's ridiculous, really, because there is so much more to their friendship than sleepovers: there is the pool, there are the bike rides, the days spent together in class every year, and other things, as well.

But this one thing is incredibly tense and awkward and Haruka doesn't really understand why, but he doesn't like it and he doesn't like that Makoto walks at a distance from him now, that he seems to spend more and more time daydreaming and tuning out the world around him — never mind that Haruka does plenty of that himself.

Haruka sees in his mother's face that she feels guilty… but also relieved.

He loves his mother, but, just for an instant, he hates her for this. Resentment builds as he blames her for driving them apart.

But in the interim — there is Nagisa. Nagisa, who, with his impossibly bright smiles and cheerful disposition, somehow manages to worm his way into Haruka's life — and, in effect, Makoto's as well.

Makoto has always simply been there. From the start, he's been part of Haruka's life. He never had to work to be friends with the other boy, he always just was.

Haruka can't imagine life without Makoto in it, because it's just not a life he's ever known. Nor does he particularly want to.

But, Nagisa. Nagisa is new and exciting and he comes into their lives like a tornado, fast and sudden and unexpected and then sticks like a leech that refuses to leave.

Nagisa is something of a miracle worker. He comes in just when it seems like things are about to crumble beneath them and mends the tear nigh instantaneously.

Much like Makoto, he's in love with Haruka's swimming and also much like Makoto he seems perfectly content to seek companionship from an incredibly unsocial person.

Nagisa and Makoto spend a lot of time together on the sidelines simply watching Haruka in adoration. He should be embarrassed, probably, but it's actually not an uncomfortable feeling at all.

Makoto grows to really like Nagisa, and Haruka doesn't dislike Nagisa, so the blond gets to squeeze his way into the friendship and reform a collapsing duo into a stable trio.

The blond boy creates a perfect buffer to repair the original two's relationship. They both can spend time together, with Nagisa in between to cover the awkward moments with his zaniness. They can adjust and find a new balance with Nagisa there to play mood-maker and make sure everything stays happy and fun and lighthearted.

Nagisa saves their friendship from detonating over a silly little thing, and for that, Haruka is… very appreciative. More grateful than words can express. Not that he'd try to say such things in the first place.

He settles for accepting when Nagisa invites both he and Makoto to spend the night at his house.

They're both a little tense at first; it's been almost eight months since they've spent a night together, after all. But at the same time, they both know that Nagisa will be there, to be both the bridge and the wall that they need.

After dinner Nagisa's parents pull out a huge inflatable mattress and set it up in the living room, intending for the three of them to share it. They won't get the easy way out of separate bedding, then.

Haruka bites his lip, Makoto clenches his fist. Together, they stare at the mattress in trepidation.

But then Nagisa is running between them with a gleeful shout to leap onto the mattress, bouncing once, twice, then rolling around and finally flopping down in utter bliss right in the center of it.

The blond's father chastises him while Makoto can't help but laugh, and even Haruka feels the corners of his mouth twitching upward against his will. Nagisa brushes off his father's words with a simple, shameless "Sorry!" and looks to his two friends. "Aren't you coming? The mattress is super comfy!"

The two share a glance and join him on the bed; Nagisa in the middle separating them.

The three stay up for a few hours, just talking and joking. Nagisa discovers Makoto is something of a scaredy cat, and takes great amusement in telling every horror story he knows, improvising as he goes. Haruka allows himself to simply relax and bask in the joy of being with friends. He doesn't worry too much about Makoto's every pale face or pained moan, because every time the boy truly starts to shake in fear he'll simply reach over and grab Haruka's shirt sleeve, clinging onto it for a short while, borrowing all the courage he needs to go on. Makoto feels at ease when he's touching Haruka — and that's alright.

The connection they share is still there, and stronger than ever.

Eventually Nagisa's mother comes out to tell the three to go to bed already or they wouldn't be getting treats in the morning. Of course, that's all it takes to get them to quiet down.

The three settle down on the mattress, which is big enough for them to lie with space in between them, the two childhood friends very conscious of each other, with Nagisa in between acting as the perfect barrier.

As the shield against all of the tension, the silence, and the strange sense of pain and loss that had become the new norm for the two.

Right now, in this moment, it feels like everything will be okay again.

Just when they're all starting to doze off, though, Nagisa speaks up.

"Oh, by the way, Mom says I roll around in my sleep a lot, and often end up clutching a pillow, so don't be too surprised if I kind of end up clinging to one of you, okay?"

The room falls silent, as two boys suddenly hold their breath.

After a moment, Haruka finds his voice. "What?"

The blond squirms for a moment, trying to get comfortable, and apologizes in advance, "Yeah, sorry, I really can't help it. Some people just like to sleep holding onto something, I guess. It doesn't mean anything so don't freak out over nothing."

The words strike Haruka very hard, at least. …doesn't mean anything… nothing…

He suddenly feels pretty stupid. He'd been denying Makoto something that couldn't be helped because his mother had made him think to continue on in such a way would lead to something bad, but what if that wasn't the case?

For Makoto, that's just how he sleeps. It can't be controlled. If he preferred to sleep holding tightly to something, it didn't matter if that something was Haruka.

Something he'd been flipping out about and had almost torn their friendship apart for… ultimately, meant nothing.

He feels like a huge idiot. He wonders if Makoto is coming to the same revelations right now.

However, his introspection is cut short by a smaller body draping itself across him.

"What the—?" Nagisa has his arm across Haru's shoulder, and his head on his chest, blond hair falling somewhat into the elder boy's face.

If Makoto likes to press himself against something, Nagisa could be said to like lying partially on top of something, though he'll also be happy snuggling into someone from the front if they're lying on their side.

"Whoa, amazing, Haru-chan! You're actually really comfortable! I thought you might be bony, but you're not at all!"

"Don't just suddenly turn me into your pillow! And don't call me –chan!"

His best efforts to dislodge the young boy just end in him attaching himself even tighter, like a barnacle. Makoto laughs quietly at the sidelines, and Haruka, finally giving up, meets the other boy's eyes.

Looking away, he mutters, "Well, whatever. I guess this is fine. Since it doesn't mean anything. I'll get used to it."

He wonders if Makoto catches his meaning. It's impossible to tell, because all the other boy says is a simple, "Goodnight, Haru-chan," before turning on his side away from the scene.

He settles back down, attempting to get comfortable with this second individual attached firmly to his person. The feeling is foreign, but, much like Makoto, not uncomfortable.

Still, he struggles to sleep with no clear idea why.

When he wakes in the morning he finds that he has somehow impossibly become the middle of the sleeping arrangement. Nagisa still sleeps with his head on Haruka's chest, and Makoto is nuzzled into his back, arms once more around his waist.

The heat of these two other people on him is incredible, and yet not suffocatingly so. He actually… feels sort of content.

As he lies there, waiting for the two of them to wake up, he comes to a decision: if Makoto wants to snuggle, then so be it. It doesn't mean anything, so it's fine, so long as his mother doesn't catch them and misinterpret again.

For a little while, time is spent between the three of them blissfully. There are three-person sleepovers, or sometimes just two. Makoto always, always seeks Haruka out in his sleep but never beforehand and every morning after he asks to be sure — and because it appears to be what Makoto wants, Haruka lies every time and says that he kept to himself all night.

He doesn't force the issue because Makoto clearly has radically different conscious and subconscious desires so it's best to let him be. Even if Haruka is fine with the touching, Makoto, evidently, is not, so he keeps silent so as to not pain his friend.

After Nagisa comes Rin.

Where Nagisa is something of a stabilizer (ironic, given that he is probably the most impulsive of the bunch), Rin could be called the exact opposite. Where the blond is the anchor that kept the two childhood friends grounded, Rin is a rocket, blasting them ever forward.

Rin is a wild card that shakes them to the core — Rin is the one to change everything.

Because, Rin… he accomplishes something no one, not even Makoto, could do: he spurs the ever-passive Nanase Haruka into action.

For the first time, Haruka feels the sense of competition. He has never cared for it before, swimming only free, but with Rin egging him on suddenly he wants to — to swim faster, to train harder, to get that much better. To do more.

It's a foreign feeling, much different than his peaceful feelings brought about by Nagisa and Makoto. This feeling makes his blood rush, his heart speed up, his breath come short and fast. This feeling is exhilarating, and despite his sincere attempts to avoid it, avoid Rin and this strange — but good, but bad because it's so good and he doesn't understand why — new feeling, he gets swept away in it.

He gets a little caught up in it, the feeling of himself and Rin; this itself being strange because until now his name had only ever been lumped with Makoto's.

But Rin is unlike Nagisa who slid into Makoto and Haruka's friendship, sealing it shut behind himself and creating the seamless friendship in its own perfect world separated from reality.

Rin busted down the wall and, with a cocky grin and wave of the hand, led Haruka out — leaving Makoto and Nagisa behind.

That's not to say that Rin isn't friends with the other two; merely, that he has a connection with Haruka not shared with anyone else.

In the year that they become friends, Rin and Haruka only have two sleepovers: one with all four of them at Rin's house, and the other just the two of them, at Haruka's.

The first, at Rin's, happens a mere month before he intends to leave for Australia — but of course, he hasn't told them that yet. They all stay up until about two in the morning playing videogames, with his little sister Gou watching them until about eleven-thirty.

Much like at Nagisa's, a huge mattress is brought out for them all to sprawl upon and sleep together. Makoto had been the first to fall asleep whilst Haruka and Rin played a fighting game, so pretty much the moment Haruka lays down beside him the brunet comes grasping for him. Nagisa, too, goes straight for Haruka's chest the moment he settles down.

For them, this is natural; the way it's always been.

Rin eyes the scene somewhat incredulously before Nagisa declares, "Come join the dog pile!"

Then, he laughs and does just that, literally jumping down upon his friends — startling Makoto awake, and even Gou in the next room, who runs in to yell at her brother before remembering he has three male friends over and she's only wearing a baggy t-shirt for pajamas. Then, she blushes furiously from her head to her toes, spins on her heel, and races out, crying out an, "Onii-chan, you idiot!" in the process.

The boys all laugh, even Haruka. Rin says fondly, "She's a pest, but she's cute, yeah?"

Makoto and Nagisa give a favorable reply, and Haruka chooses to stay silent. As he expected, Rin pounces on them, threatening, "I'm glad you think so, but if you ever touch her I'll have to kill you."

Nagisa just laughs; Makoto pales, until he realizes the other boy is joking, upon which he also laughs, albeit less boisterously.

The boys settle down. Makoto, realizing how close he is to Haruka, scoots away only for Rin to squeeze into the newly made opening. "I guess I'll join you guys in your weird touchy-feely sleeping ritual," he says cheerfully.

And so they sleep like that; Makoto and Rin facing each other with their limbs not touching, Rin pressed back-to-back with Haruka, who still has Nagisa firmly nestled into his chest.

Haruka finds the heat coming from his and Rin's joined backs to be blazing. It sends a not-unpleasant thrill through his body, racing through his veins. His face feels warm for some reason.

He doesn't sleep well that night. He's unsure whether it's due to the intense heat resonating between himself and Rin, or the disturbing feeling of something missing.

The next time they hold a sleepover, it's two days before the medley.

Three before Rin will disappear, possibly forever.

In a fit of something akin to desperation Haruka does something he's never done before: ask someone to spend the night.

Always… it had always been Makoto reaching out to him, asking for sleepovers. And then Nagisa doing the same.

Haruka has never had to, nor has he wanted to, reach out like this. But now Rin's making him redefine everything he knows.

Rin smiles and accepts when he asks, and then brags about it at lunch to Makoto. The brunet is all smiles today, but he corrects Rin without even thinking when the other says Haruka invited him to spend the night.

"You mean you asked Haru, right?"

Rin furrows his brow, puzzled, and says, "No, I meant what I said. Nanase invited me. Why would you think otherwise?"

Of course Rin, who has only been to one sleepover with them thus far, wouldn't understand. But Makoto has always been there; he knows Haruka better than himself.

He understands the significance of this, and — he can't mask his crushed expression quite fast enough.

Haruka suddenly wishes that he'd told Rin to keep it to himself. He's not nine anymore; not quite so naïve and oblivious as he once was. Makoto is jealous of Rin. He knows this. Makoto is hurt because he feels that Haruka is choosing Rin over him.

But Makoto and Rin occupy two very different places in his heart. Makoto is — his best friend, the person closest to him, a constant in his life that will never go away. Rin, on the other hand… Rin is — a friend, yes, but also not. Rin is a rival and rather than someone whom Haruka feels at peace with is someone who makes his heart beat faster, thumping loudly in his chest.

However, no one will replace the role Makoto fills; he has no cause to be upset, unless…

"Tachibana?" Rin's confused — concerned — calling brings him back to the present, where Makoto pastes a smile on his face, hurriedly getting up.

He waves his arms, sort of flailing around helplessly like a beached whale and exclaims, "That's great! Well, I hope you have fun! And, I've told you before you can call me 'Makoto,' Matsuoka-kun. Anyway, I really need to go to the bathroom all of a sudden. I think I ate something bad. Later!"

Makoto glances at Haru, and he can't bring himself to look away from the hurt reflected in his eyes. The brunet turns swiftly and all but flees the scene.

Rin watches him leave, troubled. "That was weird. Don't you think?"

Haruka can only grunt in response. His chest suddenly aches terribly, and he fears if he speaks all that will come out is a pained moan.

Settling down in his seat, the redhead carries on, "Anyway, I've told him that if he starts calling me by my name I'll call him by his. Well, whatever."

With Haruka unable to speak much and Nagisa in a different class, lunch is a quiet affair. Makoto doesn't return until lessons start back up.

Dinner that night is a bit awkward. Haruka has had Makoto and Nagisa sleeping over before, but Rin is a new face to his parents, and, in addition, if their expressions are anything to go by, they both seem to find the lack of a certain someone else by his side a little disconcerting.

Truthfully, he does, too.

However, the atmosphere warms quickly. Rin is a natural charmer and by the end of dinner Haruka's pretty sure his mother is somewhat in love with him, and his father just keeps ruffling Rin's hair and calling him a good kid.

He feels like he's watching an alien scene.

They retreat into his room after this goes on for a while. As something of an afterthought, Haruka locks the door — he finally understands what his mother was so afraid of happening between himself and Makoto years ago, and it seems like instead that might be what's about to happen with someone else entirely.

His mother would be unhappy… if she knew.

Not noticing what he's up to, Rin sighs and fixes his hair. "Hey, Nanase. Are your parents usually that, uh… affectionate?"

"No," he answers curtly, "they're generally quite reserved."

Sitting down on Haruka's bed, Rin looks up at him and inquires, "Like you?"

"I suppose so."

"So this was some sort of freak incident, then?"

"It definitely wasn't normal."

Letting out another sigh, the redhead flops fully onto Haru's bed — and pillow — without a care in the world. "Ah, that's good then. Otherwise I might have had to inform you that you're adopted, and that would've sucked."

Haruka scowled. "I've seen the baby pictures and birth certificate to tell me otherwise."

Rin lets out a bark of laughter, shifting so that Haruka has room to sit on the bed. "So, what do you want to do?"

His room is pretty sparse; unlike his friends who all have videogames Haruka simply has a tiny television in the corner of his room. There is a computer in the living room, but that would require going outside of his bedroom, which he doesn't particularly want to do.

They end up watching three movies in a row and turn in before midnight.

This time, the two of them lie facing each other, and each time one of them shifts, their arms and legs brush. They stare into each other's eyes unblinking, heads close enough that their breath mingles.

The pressure builds. Something's about to happen — something that could change everything.

Sure enough, Rin gulps down a steadying breath, and starts, "Hey, Nanase."

Haruka shifts a fraction closer; their arms and legs touch, and neither move away. "Yeah."

"Have you… have you ever kissed anyone before?"

This is it. "No. You?"

The redhead looks away as he admits, face burning, "…I haven't, either."

His own face feels incredibly warm. Actually, his whole body feels as if it's on fire. "I see."

Rin shifts closer; their foreheads touch and they share the same air. "…But you know, my mother told me that your first kiss is one of the most terrifying experiences you ever go through."

He stares into the others eyes, murmurs, "Is that so."

"So I figured, to make it a less frightening experience, you should definitely have your first kiss with someone you're comfortable with, right?"

Briefly, Makoto's face flashes into his mind. To Haruka, that's what Makoto is: an ever-present comfort and security. Nonetheless, he shifts closer, their noses bumping awkwardly, closes his eyes, and answers, "Makes sense."

I want this.

Getting the answer he wanted, Rin lets out a shaky breath, and then the small space between their lips is gone. The pressure is light, the kiss, closed-mouth and chaste.

And yet, it lingers. The simple touching of their lips sends another lick of flame sending through his body, and Haruka kisses back, putting more pressure and passion into it.

They lie there, simply letting their mouths be pressed together and enjoying the feeling, until they finally run out of air and break apart.

It feels like eternity; it only lasted a minute.

And then Rin starts to lean in again, and—

Almost in spite of himself, Haru pulls away.

If he had to guess a reason, he'd blame it on the terminology Rin had used. "Someone whom I like, someone who I am close to, someone who makes my heart beat faster, someone whom I care about…"

Anything would have been a fine alternative. There's no denying that Haruka does want it, want this, want Rin.

But, Haruka is not comfortable with him. If anything, it's the opposite; he's never more on edge, feeling too much, than when he's around the other boy. When he's near Rin, his heart and blood races, and he can't settle down.

It's a thrilling feeling, but at the same time he definitely can't say it's a comfortable one.

Rin reminds Haruka of fire. Of a wildfire, the heat moving quickly and intensely; inescapable. Perhaps Rin's appeal is the excitement of seeing how long you can last around him without being burned.

In comparison, Makoto… Makoto is like a campfire, small and contained, with very little danger and pleasantly warm.

Haruka won't kiss Rin again, because he refuses to kiss him while thinking of someone else.

The redhead notices immediately that he's stopped, and pulls back, as well. He laughs, even, playing it off with a, "Ah, well, it's good to have that out of the way, huh, Nanase?"

Unable to meet Rin's eyes, he turns around, and responds with a despondent, "Yeah."

The other boy is silent for a moment, before turning around, as well, and they lie quietly with their backs touching. The heat is sweltering.

He wants to — to do something out of character. To maybe just say that now that the first kiss is done, they could move on to the second one, wherein they kiss someone they like instead. He wants to turn around and seal their mouths together again.

But Makoto's face is stuck in his mind, haunting him.

Instead, he simply opens his mouth and says, "Haru."

Rin stirs from where he'd already been dozing off. "Huh?"

"…From now on, call me Haru. Understand… Rin?"

The sound of breathing behind voice of someone who doesn't know what to feel. "I understand. Then, Haru, thanks for having me over."

He closes his eyes and tries to focus on sleep. "Of course."

As quickly as he'd come into their lives, Rin is gone again, with the only thing to remember him by being a buried trophy and his scent on Haruka's pillow, which fades within a week. Nagisa, a year behind the rest, also gets left behind.

It's only he and Makoto again.

It's strange to be just the two of them when he'd finally gotten used to three, four people in the group. When, so caught up was he in Rin, he has been ignoring the person supposed to be closest to him for a while, and lunches are silent and awkward.

He wonders now how they ever filled the time with just the two of them before Nagisa and Rin came into their lives.

It takes them a few months to return to the way they'd been before, having only each other. Even then, something has changed: Makoto is cautious and guarded around him for a time. It's as if, in the wake of Rin, he feels he can no longer get truly close to Haruka.

It is definitely the brunet creating the distance between them, as Haruka acts normally. Even then, he does allow the abnormal action of not calling his friend out on his behavior, weighed down by a feeling akin to guilt.

The two pretend nothing's changed, still doing things like spending all of their time together and holding sleepovers. Eventually, they manage to convince themselves that everything really is alright.

And then Rin is back for the holiday and he and Haruka are racing and once again, everything falls apart.

He's thirteen and wise enough to realize with painful clarity that there is more going on than just swimming between them. He's smart enough to know that Makoto is also involved.

He feels like he's being pulled in two directions. He thinks of Makoto, and then Rin, and feels with absolute certainty that if they keep treading the same path, something is going to break.

Or perhaps, he thinks, looking down in horror as Rin fails to keep the tears from streaming down his face, something already has.

As he announces his decision to quit the swim team the following day, he wonders if this could have been prevented if only he'd chosen to kiss Rin back that night.

Seventh through tenth grades pass in a blur of inactivity, boredom and frustration. Only one thing of note happens in all that time:

A third of the way through his first year of high school, Haruka's parents move.

His father is offered a significantly better job a few hours away, and, with a little searching, his mother manages to find a position similar to the one she currently has in the same city. He could have gone with them, but without saying anything — never raising a fuss, not when it came to his own feelings — Makoto makes it plainly clear he'd be entirely alone if that happened. Haruka reads the clear desperation and hope that can't be suppressed in the brunet's eyes, and decides instantly that he can't leave; he refuses to do that to him.

It is surprisingly easy to convince his parents to let him stay in the house alone. They seem assured enough simply knowing that Makoto lives close by, and that Haruka is always welcome at his house.

His mother stresses that he must go over and have dinner from time to time, if only so he doesn't live off of just fish — to make her happy, he agrees, though he also can't help but argue that he sees nothing wrong with his eating habits.

Makoto all but insists he spend that first night his parents are gone with him, so that he "won't be lonely". Haruka doesn't see much point in this since he'll have to adjust to living alone sooner or later, but agrees to it nonetheless.

They see his parents off together, with the two dragging a promise out of Makoto to take good care of their son in their absence. The taller boy consents to do his best, and Haruka is relieved that his mother doesn't seem to notice the brunet's lightly dusted cheeks, as she'd surely reconsider asking for such a favor if she did.

The moment they're out of sight, Makoto lets himself blush intensely, forgetting for a moment about Haruka as he palms his cheeks with one hand and murmurs to himself, "No, but seriously, asking me such a thing… Do they think I'm his mother? Ah, so embarrassing…"

Haruka shoots his friend a pointed look and says, "The person you're talking about is right here. And you can't be my mother as she just walked out the door."

Makoto snaps to attention and his face turns redder still. He lets a flustered "Haru-chan!" slip from his lips. Haruka simply glares at him for the mistake until he wilts and apologizes under the pressure, color very slowly fading from his cheeks.

Other than that, the night passes without a hitch; the two share a bed even still, despite being far too old for the action to be considered anything but inappropriate, with Makoto nervously making the excuse of, "It's fine, so long as we don't actually touch each other, after all."

The problem arises in the morning when, for the first time ever, Haruka does not wake first.

As the sunlight filters in through the shades, he blinks his eyes open and finds himself unexpectedly cold; the warmth he is used to feeling pressed against his back and around his waist distressingly absent.

Makoto's side of the bed is cold, implying he's been gone for quite some time. Haruka considers the likelihood of the brunet being so spooked upon waking in such a position that he left the house and returned home rather than face the consequences.

The smell of something burning proves his theory incorrect.

Haruka frowns and rolls out of bed, goes to the bathroom to relieve himself, and then wanders into the kitchen a few minutes later to find Makoto staring at a small stack of blackened pancakes in dismay.

He stares at them for a moment as well before turning to address the other boy, startling him. "It's not fish."

After Makoto calms down from the sudden scare he faces Haruka with a frown that looks more like a pout. "Of course it's not fish! You have enough of that as it is." He really doesn't see why that's such a big deal. "I thought I'd fix something else for us instead, but…" he trails off, staring forlornly at the burnt pancakes.

Makoto's cooking is something of a hit and miss. He's generally decent; not terrible, but not good, either. However, it's rare for him to mess up so horribly on something as simple as pancakes, implying to Haruka that perhaps he's more unnerved than he's letting on.

The brunet sighs and mutters, "Well, I guess I'll just have to keep trying."

"Wait." Haruka comes up beside him, noting that as he does so Makoto jumps and tries but fails to subtly put some distance between them. "I'll make something instead."

Haruka, meanwhile, is a much better cook… with a very limited selection of food. He could probably cook better than Makoto at most things if only he didn't stubbornly insist on fixing nothing but fish.

The brunet avoids eye contact and grumbles, "I said I wanted us to eat something other than fish…"

"Freshly served mackerel is better than burnt pancakes," comes the blunt reply.

Makoto sighs in a mix of exasperation and resignation before taking a seat. While he cooks, Haruka sneaks glances at his friend: the green-eyed teen is slumped forward in his seat, head on the table, facing away from him.

Makoto is clearly bothered by what he knows to have happened in his sleep, and is smart enough to probably realize that this wasn't just a one-time occurrence; however, he isn't saying a word about it.

The feigned ignorance in the silence vexes Haruka for reasons he can't quite comprehend.

And so, as he finishes the food and sets a plate down in front of his friend, he makes sure to catch the other's eyes, projecting his displeasure with a succinct, "So?"

It is a fact that Haruka knows Makoto better than anyone; through years of experience, reading the brunet's every thought comes like second nature to him. Makoto's eyes don't lie, always expressing that which he desires but refuses to talk about.

It's probably why the other boy has gotten into the habit of looking away in serious moments — he knows just as well that he'll be exposed otherwise.

The connection works both ways, however, and this is something that Haruka sometimes forgets. He can't help but be startled as Makoto stares into his eyes and then, understanding just like that, droops in submission.

"I've always slept like that, haven't I. I never actually stopped. You just told me I did."

The statement is spoken flat, with an undertone of shame. It makes his chest clench up unpleasantly. Makoto in pain is causing him pain, as well.

He wants to say something, to put his friend at ease. He murmurs a quiet, truthful, yes instead.


Why, indeed.

Since lying has come back to bite him in the ass, he sticks with honesty: "Because you were happier this way. And because I genuinely don't mind."

Makoto looks back at him through unhappy eyes. "I don't understand what you're saying, Haru."

Haruka sighs and mutters unhappily under his breath about having to elaborate when it's embarrassing enough as is. His friend simply stares at him, unmoving, until he relents. "You've always wanted to be told, the morning after every night we spend together, that you did in fact manage to sleep without touching me. You're happier thinking that. Despite that seeming to be your sincere wish, you also always grab me the moment you fall asleep. I don't care how you choose to sleep. I… don't mind sleeping like that. It's — not uncomfortable," he says, ignoring the way his ears burn, "and the few times I've tried to shake you off in your sleep you refuse to let go and end up sleeping fitfully, so I left it alone since I always wake up first. I thought it better to let it be rather than confront the issue.

"Until today, I've always woken up first. I didn't intend for you to ever know and be troubled by it, since I was fine this way."

Makoto hangs his head, hiding his eyes. His voice trembles as he argues, "No, you shouldn't have let this go, Haru. It's one thing to cling to you as a child, but now… it's wrong, and if you don't force me to stop… then I never will. I thought I was strong enough to be able to stop on my own, but I guess that's not the case…"

He can't help the scowl that springs to his face as the brunet puts himself down. A sharp "What makes it wrong?" comes flying unbidden from his mouth.

Green eyes stare at him in doubt. "I…"

He trails off, unable to answer, and averts his eyes once more, desperately trying to hide himself away from the searching stare of his friend.

"I don't think it's wrong," Haruka insists. "Everyone prefers to sleep in different ways. If you like to hold onto me, that's fine. It doesn't mean anything, so stop freaking out about it."

He knows as he's speaking that it's the wrong thing to say; knows in Makoto's silence that what he's just done is more akin to slamming a lid down upon a can of worms, choosing to blissfully ignore the problem rather than face and resolve it.

Because… it's there —

In Makoto's every adoring smile, overreaction to accidental brushes of hands, in his amazing tendency to disappear whenever Haruka and Rin had been together, and, yes, in the way he so fiercely refuses — subconsciously — to let go of Haruka in his sleep, it's there:

The undeniable implication that it all means something.

But frankly, Haruka is not ready to deal with the potential repercussions of giving attention to such a thought, and he doesn't believe Makoto is, either.

So just this once he'll say something as deliberately cruel as this, shutting down Makoto and his feelings, because he doesn't know yet if he wants to be more than friends with him, and something as serious as this would rock their foundation too much to ignore if they addressed it.

He's already almost lost his best friend once; he refuses to let it happen again, even if he does hurt Makoto in the process.

For his part, Makoto does nothing to stand up for his feelings. He doesn't cry in outrage about their existence being denied, about Haruka's refusal to acknowledge them. He understands well enough what Haruka is doing, and so his only comment is a timid, "…It really doesn't bother you?"

"I already said I'm fine with it."

Breakfast is eaten in silence; the charade continues.

The next time Makoto spends the night a few weeks later, he very hesitantly moves to press himself against Haruka, while awake. He doesn't say a thing, but he knows Makoto is awake because the brunet would never be this timid if he were already sleeping.

For that reason Haruka inadvertently tenses, causing Makoto to pause in wrapping his arms around him, drawing in a strangled breath. "I'm sorry… is this really okay?" he apologizes.

He forces himself to relax, mumbling, "I've said it's fine, didn't I? I won't go back on it now. But…" he can't resist from asking, "why are you doing it now?"

It's that much harder to pretend it's meaningless doing it like this, you know?

Makoto is quiet for a moment, before — "…It's fine, isn't it? Either way, it… doesn't mean anything."

As his heart catches painfully for a moment in his chest, Haruka wonders which is more painful for Makoto at the moment: the fact that he is being forced to suppress his feelings and lie, or that he feels them at all in the first place.

His second year of high school brings about many changes.

In a flurried tornado of activity, Nagisa reappears, and then Rin. The former is exactly the same as they remember; Rin is not. The redhead is cagey and guarded around them, hiding the emotions he used to let loose so freely.

The only thing he shows openly is his seemingly boundless anger and unrest, and Haru has never felt more trapped than when he is pinned down by the storm in the other's eyes.

Despite it feeling undeniably wrong, the three form a swim team without their missing fourth member, even Haruka agreeing to go along with it in spite of the fact that he has no love for competition. He won't say that he's swimming just for Rin, just in hopes that he might break through to his former friend; there's more to his decision than that.

It's nice to be one with the water again.

They — or rather, Nagisa, through something like seduction laced with the blond's particular brand of mischievous black magic — manage to acquire a fourth member by the name of Ryuugazaki Rei.

Rei is weird.

Coming from Haruka, this is saying something.

He holds unbelievable amounts of eccentricity behind a thin layer of cool stoicism. He's a perfectionist to the highest degree, he overthinks everything, and he is rather obsessed with beauty. And the beauty is question is… subjective at best.

He balks at Nagisa's — admittedly ridiculous — speedos, and then proceeds to try on a freaking butterfly swimsuit with no shame whatsoever.

Haruka personally doesn't care what kind of design the other boy prefers (one of the many pearls of wisdom his grandmother had left him with was the saying, "to each his own." Who was he to judge?), but he has to put his foot down on the butterfly suit if only because the wings would slow him down in the water, and that is unacceptable.

Rei can't swim for reasons unfathomable to the others (and they had tried their hardest to uncover the mystery to be sure), but as if by some miracle of God he is able to swim the butterfly, and swim it well.

To be honest, he initially dislikes the other boy. The main problem is simply that Rei looks down on the water, looks at it like a problem to be solved rather than the salvation Haruka sees it as. Their viewpoints are simply too different not to clash.

There is also a small, niggling part of his mind decrying the bespectacled boy for slipping into that coveted fourth spot on their swim team when by all rights it belongs to someone else already. As illogical as it is, he can't stop himself from being unhappy that Rin is being replaced.

However, Rei's sheer grit and determination manages to break through the ice and reach even Haruka's heart, and it isn't long before he's found a place among the other boys.

Rather than take Rin's place, the blue-haired boy fills his own unique spot among the circle of friends.

Rei spends the night all of one time, the night after the Iwatobi Swim Club finishes their attempt at the national championship. They don't make it, with only Haruka winning over his competitor, but the fact that they finished at second in their first year is still amazing.

They had knocked out Samezuka in the round prior, and in between the night the team spends together and the end of the tournament, Rin catches up to Haruka for a private moment.

The two have a much-needed talk. Rin has some issues that Haruka just can't fix, but that's because only Rin himself can resolve those problems, and this is something that he seems to finally realize. They reconcile, at least a little, promising to become "friendly rivals" once more and part on much better terms.

He notes as the redhead walks away that the storm in his eyes seems to have calmed, as has the fire that tends to spark up whenever the two interact.

Occasionally after this, when they all are together on non-team excursions, they invite Rin. Occasionally, he accepts.

More than anything, he hopes to be friends with Rin again, but he also realizes with some surprise that that is also all he wants: to be friends.

The desire to touch, to kiss, is gone — replaced with somewhat hazy images of Makoto pressing tightly against his back.

But, back to that night — it's a team affair.

They had all promised, including the girls, to gather at Haruka's place the day prior, win or lose. The loss doesn't get them down at all, and his house is livelier than he's ever seen it as they party and rejoice for simply making it as far as they had.

Haruka in specific is given a toast — with water bottles as opposed to alcohol — for being the only one to best his opponent, and, oddly enough, a flower crown. He has no idea where Nagisa found the thing, and it's not the most comfortable atop his head, but he's in a good enough mood to humor them all and wears it for the rest of the night.

Knowing well that Haruka has no videogames, Makoto and Nagisa both bring over boardgames, and movies as well.

No one sleeps until well after three in the morning. As they finally wear down, their advisor announces she's leaving, being far too old to participate in a sleepover with four teenage boys.

Nagisa jokingly suggests she has someone at home she'd rather be spending time with, despite it being common knowledge that she is still single. For once, she lets him get away with it, even joking that yes, her pussy needs attending to.

No one is brave enough to ask her if it was an innuendo, and there is silence for many minutes after she is gone. Gou is thoroughly disgusted with them, but laughs anyway.

Despite it being completely inappropriate, she intends to stay the night, and has brought proper sleepwear this time. She blushes madly when Makoto mentions the incident years ago when they'd been sleeping over at the Matsuoka household.

She is the first to fall asleep. After having changed into her pajamas, she nods off during the final movie of the night while sprawled out on the recliner. No one dares move her to her sleeping bag, so there she stays until morning, where she'll wake with quite the uncomfortable crick in her neck.

As there is not enough space for them all to sleep in Haruka's room, they stay in the living room, all resting on sleeping bags. Though initially they are laid out with space between them, Haruka's is soon squished as Makoto and Nagisa shove theirs right up against it on both sides.

They lie down and Nagisa goes straight for Haruka's chest like it is still the most natural thing in the world after all this time. Makoto, a little more aware of the other people in the room, simply lies down upon his own makeshift bed without reaching for Haruka, though they both know he'll doubtlessly end up doing so once he falls asleep.

Much like Rin had done years ago, Rei stares down at the arrangement dubiously. He goes to his sleeping bag a few feet apart, and lies facing away from them. Nagisa implores the boy to join them, and a muffled "It's not beautiful" is the rebuttal.

In response, Nagisa scoffs and stands before bodily dragging Rei and his sleeping bag over to join them anyway, ignoring his shouts of protests.

This wakes Gou up just enough for her to glare them all into submission, no one making a sound until she's softly snoring again.

Rei finally caves and sleeps with his bag pressed against Nagisa's. He is still the only one to actually sleep in said bag instead of on top of it, though.

Rei sleeps very stiffly on his back, with his arms crossed over his abdomen and his legs unmoving. He almost looks dead. When Nagisa pokes him to find out if this is the case, his head lolls to the side and he starts drooling, much to the blond's amusement.

Haruka is the last to fall asleep. He doesn't know why; with Nagisa's nose pressed into his chest and Makoto's… presence behind him, he's perfectly comfortable.

And yet — sleep escapes him until he feels arms encircling his waist and warmth against his back. It's only after Makoto has fallen asleep and unconsciously embraced him that he, too, finds his eyes closing.

He comes to the disconcerting realization that, while not uncomfortable before, he is more contented with the brunet's arms wrapped around him.

He wakes with this somewhat disturbing knowledge and, not sure what to do with it, shoves it to the back of his mind for now. He notes absently that sometime during the night Nagisa had rolled over and chosen to snuggle up to Rei instead.

They make a cute scene, with Nagisa's head upon the other's chest and one of Rei's arms having snaked out of the bag to curl against the smaller boy's waist.

Gou takes a picture of the two the moment she wakes up. For blackmail purposes, or because she thinks it's cute, he doesn't know.

He does feel a sense of relief at having woken before her, though, feeling with absolute certainty that had he not she would have another picture on her phone to match the one she had just taken.

After that — a lot happens. Memories of all kinds are made, he supposes. Though high school is supposed to be the best time of his life, it all sort of passes in a blur for him.

He doesn't really remember any specifics. Second year is gone in the blink of an eye and in third year he chooses a relatively decent college and swims.

Around him, his friends change. Rin opens back up and is almost the person he used to be again; Rei admits that he is gay (no one saw it coming); despite major efforts by everyone on the team, Nagisa somehow becomes an even more mischievous person than he was and begins to torment the entire school with pranks as opposed to just his friends; finally, Gou starts dating that one guy from Samezuka (the whole team plus Rin had been sure to corner him one day and make it quite clear what would happen should he ever hurt her; his pale, slackened face had been utterly worth the chewing out Gou gave them later).

Only he and Makoto don't change. He knows on some level that this is his fault, as Makoto's own development is tied intrinsically with his, and as long as he chooses to remain oblivious things will stay the same between them.

He does recall that at some point during third year, Makoto received a confession from a girl in their class. He'd probably remember it better had the brunet accepted, but of course, he hadn't.

When Haruka had asked about it later, Makoto had said that he'd turned the girl down, because he already loved someone else.

The conversation ended there, as he already knew to whom Makoto had been referring.

Because of his stubborn refusal to acknowledge his own feelings, he is still unsure of how to handle the situation between them, and thus, nothing changes.

But even he realizes that this can't go on forever, and that one way or another, if he wants anything to happen he'll have to do it himself.

After they graduate — passing the mantle of Captain down to Nagisa after much deliberation; they'd seriously contemplated just calling Gou the new captain, but unfortunately she could not technically hold the title as a mere manager — they go to the same college. With a little luck, and a lot of wheedling, they manage to become roommates.

He doesn't pursue competitive swimming, and so neither does Makoto. He contents himself with the thought of one day owning a house with a pool.

If high school is the so-called best time of one's life, then college is the time of change. Out on their own, people have to find a way to live and get by without the support of parents and friends from high school.

For Haruka, the reverse is true: he's been living alone for years and now suddenly he's living with Makoto. It feels like an extended sleepover, except they have beds on opposite sides of the room.

The first night they spend together, they both lie awake for hours, both unable to sleep and knowing why but hesitant to cross the bridge.

Finally, just as Haruka is falling into an unhappy sleep—


He shifts on his side to gaze at his friend in the dark. "Yeah?"

Makoto avoids his eyes as he mumbles, "I can't sleep."

"Yeah." The word contains two meanings: yeah, I can't either, and yeah, it's alright to sleep like always.

The brunet reads it in his voice and wordlessly, they both stand up to shove their beds together as quietly as possible in the center of the room. They'll rearrange in the morning.

For now, they both get into their bigger makeshift bed, Makoto wrapping himself around Haruka as usual.

He doesn't say it, but he feels instantly better.

"Sorry," the brunet murmurs.

"It's fine," he says, repeating a conversation held every night the two share together.

He wonders if Makoto will continue to apologize like this every time when they're most likely going to be sleeping together for the unforeseen future.

The bigger boy — man, now, is probably more accurate — is dozing within minutes, happy and peaceful with Haruka in his arms.

Haruka, meanwhile, finds his mind to be working itself too much, too fast, to let sleep take him. He is comfortable as always, but he also feels that it is, inexplicably, warmer than usual.

The heat between Makoto's chest and his back is intense; the heat of Makoto's fingers when he unconsciously slips them under Haruka's shirt to press his hands against bare skin even more so.

He is reminded of the blazing fire he felt that night with Rin. The comparison makes a blush spring to his cheeks.

For the first time, Haruka lets himself think about his feelings, and not just Makoto's.

He allows himself to acknowledge that their relationship, even without the sleeping preferences thrown in, is hardly normal.

Makoto always came to fetch him for school, and this often involved getting him out of the bathtub. Haruka always cooked breakfast after this and the brunet would eat some, despite having had something at home. The two of them always shared a two-person popsicle, rather than simply buying their own, and they often shared a single set of headphones to listen to music to, despite Haruka knowing for a fact that their music taste was not exactly compatible.

All of this spoke volumes about Makoto's feelings for Haruka… but also said much the same about the other way around. After all, Haruka not only permitted this all, but, thinking about not having any of it now makes him rather uneasy.

The thought of Makoto eating a popsicle by himself or, god forbid, with someone else, sets Haruka extremely and irrationally on edge.

And yes, going back to the current predicament, the fact that Haruka is not only "alright" with sleeping with Makoto in such a manner but also actually more comfortable doing so is quite telling.

And with the long-overdue acknowledgement of the feelings he'd been suppressing also comes the realization that they've existed for quite some time — he remembers suddenly thinking of Makoto when he'd had his first kiss with Rin.

Probably, he's cared for Makoto almost as long as the brunet has cared for him, but he'd been too stubborn to let himself admit it until now. The guilt at the needless heartache he's surely caused his best friend for years comes crashing down upon him and he resolves to fix the issue — soon.

College is the time of change, after all. It's time they moved forward; they'd been stagnant more than long enough.

And so, the following night, when Makoto goes to hug him, an apology already on his lips—

He rolls over, holding himself on top of the other boy with his arms on both sides of his face. Makoto stares up at him in shock, a blush already forming on his face, and lets out a startled, "Haru-chan?"

"Makoto." His gaze must be quite intense, because for once the other boy can't seem to avert his eyes.


"You haven't had your first kiss, right?" It's more a statement than a question, as he knows the answer already. The brunet has always been by his side, always devoted to him. Even if he found time away from Haruka to form such an intimacy with someone else, he wouldn't want to.

Makoto blushes harder, face redder than he's ever seen it, and stumbles out, "N-no, I haven't…"

Just as he thought. Now for the hard part.

"S-someone once told me that… that your first kiss is one of the most terrifying experiences of your life." He hates that he stutters, but he can't help the sudden nervousness. It's been so long since his relationship with Makoto has changed that he's admittedly scared of doing this, despite wanting it.

"…Yes…?" Meanwhile, the brunet has finally managed to tear his eyes off of Haruka's, and is steadily looking anywhere but at him. The blush has expanded to his ears and neck.

"…So to make it less scary, you should kiss someone you're comfortable with, understand?"

"Ah, yes, I suppose that makes sense…"

It's quite clear that Makoto has no idea why he's being told such things, so used to his feelings being ignored by Haruka that he doesn't understand a reality where they are finally being acknowledged.

Haruka frowns at this. The brunet is proving to be more difficult than he'd anticipated. However, he can't be too upset at him, as he has only himself to blame for doing this to his friend in the first place.

He takes a deep breath, and simply says, "And so," before leaning down with that as his only preamble and pressing gently against the other boy's lips.

The kiss lasts only a brief moment, and it's entirely one-sided as Makoto is too shocked to move. In fact, Haruka is quite certain that for that small period the other teen's heart stopped beating altogether.

It will have to be enough, though, as Haruka has done all he can — or rather, all he is willing to do. He has gotten his feelings across, as far as he is concerned, and he refuses to do anything else until Makoto comes to a decision and makes a move.

He rolls off and back onto his side, closing the issue with a mumbled goodnight. Makoto finally starts breathing again a moment later, and tentatively wraps his arms around him. Haruka knows that he doesn't sleep for quite some time, though, as his shaking hands keep him up as well for at least an hour.

When they wake in the morning, Haruka acts normally, and Makoto takes his cue and pretends nothing has changed. This continues through the day until it seems like things really are going to stay the same, despite Haruka's best efforts to the contrary.

But this is not the case once night falls. Haruka gets into bed like always, and Makoto… Makoto hovers over the bed nervously, not getting in yet. He finally does after a few minutes of staring at it in trepidation, and proceeds to lie on his back stiffly and awkwardly, facing the ceiling.

As he had already resolved to let Makoto make the next move, Haruka allows this, simply watching to see what the brunet will do.

After ten minutes of grinding his teeth, Makoto finally snaps. Much like Haru had done the night before, he rolls over and places his arms on both sides of Haruka's head, effectively trapping him.

The role reversal allows him to feel what the brunet might have felt last night, and seeing the larger boy hovering above him he struggles to contain a blush.

"Haru!" Makoto whispers urgently.

Their eyes lock, and he fights to remain calm. "Yeah?"

Green eyes glitter in determination. "Last night, you said that your first kiss should be with someone you're comfortable with, yes?"


"Then, that means that your second kiss should naturally be with someone you like, right?"

He pauses a moment, understanding where this is heading, and murmurs, "Yes."

"If that's the case, then…" Makoto falters, loses some resolve, but recovers, "…then, I would still want to kiss you. But…" he murmurs, as his confidence drains completely, "…is that really okay?"

Haruka looks up at his despairing friend and can't help but think in horror — I did this.

Makoto has always been something of a timid person, but never around Haruka. Haruka is supposed to be the one person he is more comfortable with than anyone, the person whom he can be open and honest with and whom he can trust and rely on.

But he had stomped on Makoto's feelings one too many times and created a wall between them in the process. A wall that suddenly rears its ugly head, and it's so frighteningly tall that he wonders how long it will take to scale or break it.

No matter how long it takes, though, he'll do it. Makoto is worth the effort. And he starts with this:


The brunet looks at him through eyes expecting heartbreak and rejection. "Yes, Haru?"

"Last night…" he pauses, works up the courage to say it, "…last night was my second kiss."

It's not enough to break the wall, not completely, but he knows by the wonder in Makoto's face that it leaves one hell of a dent. He can see the gears turning in the other's head as he processes the words. He sees in Makoto's widening eyes the burgeoning realization, does that mean he…? He sees the brief flicker of, wait, who was his first kiss?

And finally, he reads the euphoric, it doesn't matter, he likes me! And then Makoto is crashing down and he is surging up and their noses actually smack together painfully but it doesn't even matter because the only thing important right now is Makoto's lips pressing firmly against his own.

It's nothing like the two gentle kisses he's had before; in this kiss there is passion and force, closed mouths moving against each other with such strength he knows that by the end they'll both possess matching pairs of swollen, bruised lips.

It's also, admittedly, a little awkward, as neither of them have any experience in the matter and don't really know what they're doing, and they're struggling to find the same rhythm. What the kiss lacks in finesse, though, it certainly makes up for in desire and want.

He doubts either of them has ever wanted something as much as in this moment.

Haruka places one hand in Makoto's hair, and the other on his neck to drag the other boy closer still. In response, after a brief moment of hesitation, Makoto nips at his bottom lip, causing him to gasp and allowing the brunet to slip his tongue inside his mouth.

The kiss actually slows down after that, with the fierce intensity giving way to careful exploration. The boys lower themselves back onto the bed, and Haruka sighs into the other's mouth as his head hits the pillow. His eyes flutter shut as Makoto slowly learns his way around the inside of his mouth, running his tongue over the other teen's teeth and battling playfully with Haruka's tongue when the two touch.

The two finally break apart to breathe — bless swimmers' lungs, he thinks hazily, enjoying the pleasant tingling throughout his body — and Makoto, no longer able to support himself on shaking arms, rolls to lie beside him on the bed.

The two stare up at the ceiling in silence as they struggle to regain their lost breath. Haruka's heart is pounding loudly, sounding like it's attempting to escape out of his chest, but so is Makoto's. His lips feel like they're on fire — but it's not a bad sensation at all. In fact, he rather likes it.

Eventually, the brunet breaks the silence with a tentative, "…Haruka?"

He hasn't been called in such a manner since they were children. He'd always hated his feminine name, and had been sure to teach all of his friends to call him only Haru (and even then he only settled for that because they refused to call him by his surname). However…

The way his name rolls off of Makoto's lips, full of love and wonder… isn't bad at all. It's not unpleasant. So, he rolls onto his side to face his friend — lover now, perhaps? — and responds with a curt, "Yes."

Yes, I heard you, and yes, you can call me that.

Makoto, of course, hears both meanings and smiles. Even though Haruka is fairly certain the other already knows, Makoto asks to be sure:

"From now on… if I want to—" he pauses, a blush rising once more on his cheeks, but does not stop, "—to hug you, or… hold your hand, or even kiss you… that's okay?"

Haruka awards him a small smile. "It's fine if you want to do more than that."

Predictably, Makoto's face goes scarlet, and he lets out a scandalized, "Haru-chan!" Despite his embarrassment, he still clearly understands, and reaches over with growing confidence to initiate another kiss.

As he eagerly meets the other halfway, Haruka contemplates the wall. It's not really broken, not yet, not so easily; probably it will take months, maybe years to completely repair the damage he's done to Makoto and their relationship.

But at the very least there's a nice hole in it now for them to communicate through.

For the first time since he was a child, he feels absolutely at peace, as if he has not a single problem in the world. He can see in Makoto's eyes that he feels the same.

For the first time since they were young, the two sleep facing each other, arms and legs tangled, foreheads touching. Breath intermingling.

He's pleasantly warm. It's quite comfortable.

AN - and this beast is finally over. Can you believe when I went into it I was expecting something less than three thousand words and fluffy? It got away from me and turned into this. Anyway, I like how it turned out (for the most part coughs I have serious reservations about certain parts of the ending but oh well)! As always, constructive criticism is appreciated. ^_^