When Haruka first notices it, he has to check again, just to make sure. It seems unlikely, he'd even say impossible, that it was happening.

"Ehhh? Mackerel again?" Makoto asks for the umpteenth time in his life. Lately he wonders why he even bothers.

"You don't have to have it," Haruka retorts, voice almost drowned out by the sound of sizzling fish.

Yet Makoto's able to hear him somehow. Maybe it's a telepathic thing; they aren't twins, but there's some phenomenon out there that allows the two of them to hear each other's voice even when there's a storm raging, literally or metaphorically.

And there's a word for that phenomenon; they both know it, it's right on the tip of both of their tongues if they ever need to say it, but the day they actually do is far away in the time-space continuum. Just knowing and knowing (or at least hoping?) the other knows is enough. That's practically what their whole bond is, a nearly invisible and yet unbreakable thread.

Makoto just sighs. "You really do love mackerel, don't you…"

Haruka hears him trail off and sneaks a quick glance. "No comment." He has to test out his hypothesis.

Ah. There's that expression on Makoto's face again. It's rare enough for Makoto's face to be devoid of his gentle smile, but Haruka would bet one of his swimsuits that that's a—astonishingly cute-pout on the other male's face. And it deepens at Haruka's statement.

Really now, Haruka thinks as he munches on salty, delicious (to him) fish. Today, he decides, he's not even going to bother with toast. How long has he been with me?

He shrugs. The answer's too long for him to fathom or care. He's just relieved it hasn't ended.

Makoto's face doesn't change even when the mackerel's gone and they're walking next to each other as usual. But it doesn't stop him from venturing, "…so, was it true what you said that day?"

Haruka looks over from the sea to Makoto. "Hm?"

The taller male straightens up. "That you would go out with me if you had to choose among the guys in our swim club." The words are hesitant, enough that Haruka's certain Makoto's been building up the courage to ask him this for a while. An impressive feat for this guy.

Before Haruka can answer, though, Makoto lets out a shaky laugh and rubs the back of his neck sheepishly. "Well, never mind. Mackerel won fair-and-square, so forget I said anything. I already know the answer."

Aha. So Haruka didn't mistake the despair in Makoto's voice saying, "I lost to mackerel…" He never would have expected it to affect Makoto to this extent. In other words, this translates to, "Me of mackerel?"

He almost wants to laugh. Killer whale vs. mackerel over the heart of the dolphin. It's certainly an entertaining image.

On a more serious note, though, he's never really thought of comparing the two. But now that he thinks about it…in all honestly, he probably couldn't live without either. They both start off his day, though Makoto's the one pulling him out of the tub. He's grateful to both, though he shows it more to mackerel.

And yet…

"Not mackerel."

"Eh?" Makoto jumps when he feels fingers lace into his. He's left wondering why he face burns even though summer hasn't officially started.

"I don't let mackerel in my bathroom. And I definitely wouldn't try to give mackerel CPR."

Makoto's pout is gone, replaced by shock, confusion, and realization. There is an audible gulp from him. "So, this means-"

"I don't need anyone to make mackerel for me when I can already do it myself; I just said it to humor Nagisa. Makoto wins. Makoto's always won. So don't leave." Makoto's major blush must be contagious; Haruka can feel traces of heat on his own cheeks.

And Makoto, still blushing, smiles and tightens his fingers around Haruka. He smiles brighter than he's ever done before, so much that he's like a gentler version of the sun. Now he can say for sure: victory is his.

"I won't."