Author's note: A more lengthy chapter, phew! Not sure what I think of this because as usual the boys took my ideas and ran with them at some point pff. But we've still got some important progress happening here I guess :D
Bothersome. This guy was just plain bothersome. It was what Haru was trying to tell himself while he trotted across the familiar courtyard of Samezuka Academy. He had known something smelled fishy when Rin told him he couldn't come over this weekend because of scheduled extra training. It was the first time Haru had heard of the swim team practicing on weekends but he had accepted it as it was back then because discussing with Rin was a huge pain, especially since he hadn't sounded particularly good-tempered in the first place.
It was Friday afternoon now and a distraught message sent from Nitori earlier this day had brought him here. Apparently Rin had gotten sick but was too stubborn to admit it. It absolutely sounded like one of those irritating things this guy would do. Haru was ticked off, more than he wanted to allow. Or at least he guessed 'ticked off' was what described that queasy feeling in his gut best. Maybe there was something else mixed in with it.
And it was probably that something's fault that he had rashly set off towards Samezuka straight from school without getting changed or grabbing the bare necessities for what would most likely end in an overnight stay. What he had remembered was making a little stop to buy various kinds of cold medicine which he now carried in the little plastic bag dangling from his right hand. When Haru entered the building, Nitori was already waiting in the lobby by the entrance.
"Ah, Nana-! Ha… ruka-san. Thank you for coming so quickly!", he sputtered and Haru idly wondered whether he was ever going to stop stumbling over names and honorifics. "I told you just Haru is fine.", he pointed out distractedly, his mind already elsewhere and his gaze seemed to trail past Nitori and in the direction of the corridor towards Rin's room by its own accord.
"I'm heading home for the weekend now. Senpai wanted to go to the pool and I told him he should stay in bed because I'm scared he'll drown in his state but I'm sure he will try again now that I'm gone, so you should probably get there quickly.", Nitori hurriedly informed with a visibly troubled expression and it took Haru a moment to translate the rush of words in his head because the guy talked even faster when he was upset. "Alright.", he murmured and already moved to walk away but Nitori stopped him with a hasty little step forwards. His eyes were cast to the ground when Haru looked at him again and he suddenly appeared to be even more anxious. Haru absolutely didn't like it.
"Senpai has been acting a little weird the last days. He probably wouldn't want you to know but…" Haru watched Nitori's hand clench around the strap of his bag. "I think he's sick because he pushed himself too hard lately. Something seems to be troubling him. I thought maybe you can…", Nitori's voice faded out towards the end and Haru could hardly stand the pleading look he was given. His chest clenched even more painfully than just by the thought of having to deal with a stubborn sick Rin.
"…Got it.", he muttered under his breath and he could just barely keep his voice at a monotone level. Something within wanted to turn and bolt. Fur sure, he would have easily given in to this something not long ago. Today something else was stronger and somehow he wanted to hurry up and get to Rin's room even more urgently than before.
"I'm sure he will listen to you.", Nitori added with the first little smile today and Haru averted his eyes uncomfortably before slightly turning his body to indicate he was taking his leave. "Sorry the idiot causes you so much trouble.", he said before he did so and Nitori flinched and immediately waved him off embarrassedly but Haru didn't comment on it before he hurried off.
Even though Haru didn't falter in his steps, the air seemed to get thicker and harder to breathe in the closer he got to the familiar room. Something seems to be troubling him. Images of the Rin that had freshly returned from Australia some months ago flashed before Haru's mind. Images of that look on his face. Haru didn't want to see it.
The hand that reached out to knock on the door was more hesitant than his steps had been and when the door suddenly flung open before his knuckles had even hit the wood, he barely kept himself from flinching. For a second his expression must have been just as surprised as Rin's but Haru quickly regained outward composure. He narrowed his eyes upon catching sight of the towel over Rin's shoulder which proved Nitori's theory. Besides, Rin did look horrible. Without saying anything Haru shoved his way inside and closed the door.
"The hell? I told you I was busy.", Rin obviously still bothered to keep up the charade even if with only a single glance every five year old would have been able to tell the guy should be tucked into bed and that the story of weekend training was one big fat lie. "Nitori just went home for the weekend.", Haru remarked flatly and gave him a pointed look but Rin only had the decency to look mildly guilty, more pissed off actually. "I never said the whole team was going to practice.", he grunted and moved to reach for the door handle but Haru made sure to put himself in the way, leaning back against the door. Rin lowered his eyes dangerously but Haru was far from feeling intimidated. Even less so because the guy looked as if even a breeze could knock him off his feet today.
"Ai made you come here, didn't he?", he seemed to put two and two together. Haru didn't answer and Rin tsk-ed. "I'm not sick, for fuck's sake. Get out of the way-" The hand which Haru wordlessly placed on Rin's forehead cut him off and even though he backed off almost immediately, the little touch was enough to tell he was running a fever. Even just looking was enough with how glassy Rin's eyes were and how he was sweating even while the room's temperature was perfectly normal.
"You're burning up.", Haru pointed out and it was an unusual feeling but he actually had to struggle to keep his temper from flaring up. Because Rin's stubbornness was so irritating and he hated the guy's irrationality. He hated it even more how something felt so totally off and how much it threw him off course. Because Fridays were supposed to be cosy evenings relaxing at home and Rin wasn't supposed to be a selfish jerk glaring at him because glaring was all he could do since even he was aware objecting was useless. Dealing with Rin wasn't supposed to feel so difficult and suffocating.
"Go to bed.", he said. "Fuck, Haru-" "I said go to bed.", he repeated and Haru immediately despised the little hitch in his voice when it had involuntarily gotten louder. At least it made Rin's stroppy attitude deflate like a balloon and when Haru gave him a gentle shove, he actually went and flopped on the bed like a snotty brat.
Haru silently placed the plastic bag with the medicine inside in Rin's lap, settled his bag on Rin's desk chair and slipped out of his school uniform's jacket to drape it over the backrest. "You didn't have to bring so much.", Rin muttered while Haru heard the bag rustle and loosened his tie. He didn't reply and wandered to Rin's wardrobe. The truth was Haru didn't have a clue about cold medicine because he usually just took what Makoto gave to him and so he had ended up buying everything that had seemed reasonable.
"I'm going to borrow some clothes.", he said while he already retrieved a t-shirt and a tracksuit. If anything it had become even clearer that he was going to spend the night here so he could just as well get rid of the uncomfortable school uniform. Rin seemed to have given up on his protests and took some of the medicine while he changed and when Haru returned to the room after wetting a small towel with cold water in the washing room, he was actually tucked in beneath his blanket. Haru felt some of the tension fade but the heavy feeling in his chest remained.
Rin looked even more miserable now that the facade of anger was gone from his face. It just appeared fragile and way too pale now and Haru felt his insides twist while he sat down on the edge of the mattress and gently placed the folded towel on his forehead.
Something seems to be troubling him.
Haru bit his lower lip. Was he supposed to ask Rin about it? Wasn't that what you did in a proper relationship? Address problems and talk about them? Did Rin expect him to do that? Probably not. In that case, wouldn't Rin have been honest instead of trying to hide things away? Or did he expect Haru to look hard enough to see beneath the surface?
Haru felt a small throb at his temple. The urge to run and submerge in water would have been way stronger a while back in a situation like this but since words were still too dangerous, Haru gently nudged Rin and rearranged them until his back leaned against the wall and Rin's head rested in his lap.
Physical contact had proven to be a safe way of showing affection ever since they had started going out. It could actually work wonders for Rin. It could rarely solve problems for real but it was far better for Rin than his clumsy ways of articulation were and right now Rin looked so vulnerable and in need of care that the risk of saying something inappropriate was far too big. Touches never threatened to offend Rin. Today was no different because when Haru carefully raked his fingers through the soft strands of red hair, Rin immediately nuzzled into the touch, even if only just a little. Generally he seemed to have dropped his defenses now, eyes closed and the only sound in the room being Rin's breathing which sounded heavier than it usually did.
Haru occupied his mind with pondering what you were to do when taking care of a ill person because it was more convenient than wondering what was on Rin's mind and why he obviously didn't have any intentions of telling him. Medicine and rest were most important. Haru inwardly decided he would certainly have to be around to make sure the guy stayed put. The right food also seemed to be a point because Makoto always brought him soup and rice porridge. Had Rin eaten properly?
Haru also idly remembered how Makoto had once told him that his siblings became especially clingy when they were sick and Haru couldn't help thinking that Rin was probably the same when he softly brushed his fingers along a unusually heated cheek and Rin's hand moved to loosely hold him in place. "Hot…", Haru muttered. Even his palm burnt against his skin. But Rin seemed to enjoy the caresses of his own comparatively cool hand, so he continued.
"Wouldn't it be better to see a doctor?", he asked after another few minutes of silence, even though he knew it was a useless question because Rin's answer would never be 'yes'. "Don't need one.", he murmured with a slightly crooked voice, not even opening his eyes. Obviously. "S'just a cold. I'll be fine tomorrow.", he added, words slightly slurred together while he shifted on his lap and turned onto his side. Haru caught the wet towel and held it in place while he decided to eventually drag him there in case Rin's condition didn't improve until tomorrow.
"Are you angry?", Rin asked after a brief silence. Haru blinked. "What?", he retorted. "You're angry, right?", Rin mumbled again and Haru had honestly no clue what the guy was suddenly going on about. Then again, he had a high fever and still just lay there with his eyes closed and probably wouldn't even realize if he was sputtering nonsense. "I'm not angry.", Haru pointed out flatly and continued trailing his fingers across Rin's cheek and through his hair. Maybe a little angry. Everybody would have been at least somewhat infuriated if being lied at. But Rin annoyed him all the time, so it was barely anything worth mentioning or for Rin to worry about.
Haru expected some sort of explanation but even as he waited, there was none. Rin didn't even do as much as stir and it just supported his idea Rin was babbling in a fever daze. After another few minutes without anything more but listening to Rin's breathing, Haru was even pretty sure the guy had fallen asleep. Which was good. Sleep was important to get better. Haru stilled his caresses to simply rest his hand softly on top of red hair and settled his head back against the wall with a sigh.
"Haru." Or maybe not asleep after all. Tentatively Haru glanced down at the other because the voice had been so unnaturally soft that he wasn't even sure whether Rin was just talking in his sleep. What he found, however, were Rin's half-lidded eyes closely studying his shirt. Haru wasn't entirely sure why, somewhere in the back of his mind, there suddenly was the weird urge to clasp his hand over Rin's mouth before he could go on.
"When… if I go off to train for the Olympics… What happens to us?"
The muttered question caught Haru so off-guard he was sure he felt his heart skip at least one beat. There was dead-silence for a couple of seconds but Haru didn't even consider saying anything. It would have been no use anyway - the feeling in his throat was suddenly so suffocating that he could barely even breathe.
"I've been thinking about this every now and then. It's stupid, right?", a breathy little laugh and Haru's heart clenched up because there it was again. That look. "Why would I worry about hypothetical crap like that? It's not like there's any sort of guarantee such a foolish dream will ever be within reach."
Haru felt his head buzz.What are you talking about. He was aware they were getting to what had been going on in Rin's head all this time, he was about to spill and he did it on his own will. But suddenly Haru just wanted him to stop. The guy needed to shut up because the direction this was going in was no good.
"I had a few breakthroughs when I started swimming with you again. I got carried away. But lately I'm not going anywhere." If anything, the pained expression in Rin's eyes just grew worse and Haru felt an ugly stinging in his chest. "No matter what I do, my time just won't improve. If anything, it gets worse." Rin's voice was thick with frustration, anger and desperation. Haru guessed it was the fever that suddenly laid the feelings he had been bottling up so completely bare. He also knew Rin wouldn't just talk about this to anyone but even so, it hurt. Seeing Rin second-guessing himself hurt so much that his lips were still sealed shut even though there were so many things he wanted to say.
That Rin had finally believed in himself for a while had nothing to do with getting carried away. It was what it always should be like because someone like Rin had every reason to have faith in himself in every possible way. Haru wanted to tell Rin about the proud feeling that swelled in his chest when he watched him swim because he was so good and for Haru there was no doubt the guy could make it anywhere he wanted. He knew it was what Rin craved for, acknowledgment and appreciation and for some strange reason, he had always wanted it from Haru more than anyone. And yet it just couldn't come out the way it should.
"What if I already reached my limits?", Rin breathed. Haru stared at the opposite wall of the room because he just couldn't stand seeing that look in Rin's eyes and still he knew, heard it was there. "I'm probably just ordinary after all. Ordinary people don't get to go to the Olympics."
Haru unconsciously clenched his hand into a fist. Just shut up already. Rin was in no way or form ordinary. And something within him just snapped because he was so horribly angry at himself that he had just watched how Rin had spiraled into thinking all of this useless bullshit. Again. The emotion must have somehow made its way to his face because he noticed Rin shift and look at him for the first time in a while. And even if Haru still hadn't said a word, it came out all wrong again.
"I know. I'm a pain, right? I see that look on your face all the time lately.", he said with another one of those bitter little laughs, just this time there was an odd quivering in it and Haru regretted looking down at him on instinct. Because there was a strange haze over his eyes that certainly shouldn't be there. Not now and not at any time ever.
Was this why he hadn't talked to him until now? Because he had misinterpreted his worry as annoyance? This guy was an idiot. No, really, they were both such idiots it would have been ridiculous if it hadn't been so sad.
"You are a pain. You're the hugest pain I've ever seen.", Haru finally managed to choke out. He didn't even care anymore whether it was an idiot thing to say as long as it just made Rin stop talking bullshit about himself. Rin's eyes widened a little and Haru pinched his eyes shut for a moment. He needed to calm down. His head was a mess.
"And you're an asshole.", Rin bit out with a little hitch in his voice. "I haven't only been stressing about swimming but about you too, you know. You keep sending me those disapproving glares lately and I started wondering whether this relationship is another thing I just forced on you- And now all you can do is insult me, you stupid jerk-" "Rin.", Haru finally cut him off. Rin was actually sniffling and crying by now and he wasn't sure why but somehow the unconcealed display of emotion took away a good portion of the suffocating feeling. In the end they were the same. In the end they both stressed over unnecessary things and even though they were scared to hurt each other, it somehow always ended up in the opposite.
"I was the one who made the first move back then, remember?" There were a lot of things this guy had forced on him selfishly but this was certainly not one of them. And even if it were, Haru would have probably started appreciating it long ago. Because that was how it always was when Rin dragged him along with something against his will. Rin had the power to persuade him of practically anything he wanted and still he couldn't even persuade himself of how perfectly alright he was.
"Shut up.", Rin sniffled stubbornly, sobbed and tried to hide his face away in Haru's shirt but Haru didn't let him. "No, you shut up.", he muttered and pushed the towel away to gently lean his forehead against Rin's. "Stop crying." Haru liked the crying better than the cold, apathetic Rin - because it was a different sort of crying than back then in middle school and somehow it made his heart hurt and flutter at the same time - but still, Rin wasn't supposed to be crying. Haru wanted the cheerful and self-confident Rin he had caught more than just a few glances of during the last months. Or the charming, blushy Rin who was easily embarrassed about his inner romantic but still couldn't help acting it out. Any Rin was fine as long as it wasn't the one thinking lowly of himself.
"God, you suck at comforting.", Rin choked out but didn't stir or fight back when Haru kissed the tip of his nose and started wiping up the tears on his cheeks. "And you're a real baby when you're sick." It probably wasn't so bad, though. Because Rin's careless outburst had made things way easier. Rin had let him in and suddenly everything wasn't so scary anymore. Catching him didn't feel so impossible anymore either.
"Fuck you.", Rin bit out between two little hiccups and Haru couldn't fight back a tiny smile. His chest felt considerably less heavy by now because he could tell it was the same for Rin but even if he was back to acting like a snappy little brat, there was still something Haru needed to put straight. "Rin…", he started and leaned back a little when glassy eyes tentatively met his.
"The things you mentioned… Don't think any of them. They're all wrong."I'm not good enough. I've reached my limit. I'm ordinary. I'm a pain. Rin wasn't supposed to be thinking any of this horrible stuff.
"You just said it yourself.", Rin pointed out after a brief moment where the surprise had visibly flashed across his face. It was true. Rin was the person that could annoy him the most. But Rin could also work that magic for every other emotion.
Rin forced him out of his comfort zone and made him yearn for things he had never known he needed. And before he knew he always enjoyed the changes Rin brought to his life at some point. It really wasn't so bad, striving for things, letting other people in and feeling the rush of adrenaline sometimes rather than just wanting to be left alone.
Rin made him feel alive, Rin made him discover his clingy, affectionate side. The guy could make him excited with the tiniest touches and even embarrass him with his sappy little antics - though in the end it was mostly Rin who was the most embarrassed when he made him cute compliments or dragged him on painstakingly planned out dates. Haru found it easy to let down all guards when they touched and he had never known this sensation before which made him feel more free than even swimming could. Rin could make his heart flutter in happiness with doing nothing else but smile.
Rin wasn't ordinary and he had no right to think something so stupid. Haru wanted to know him all of that. Because it was another one of the many things Rin did to him - he actually wanted to speak his mind. So much that he got annoyed at himself when his baby steps of becoming more expressive couldn't keep up with his desires.
"Even when you're a pain, I still love you.", Haru blabbed out without thinking. Rin's eyes widened. And Haru realized it was so simple. These three words said it all, didn't they? At least they seemed to do a whole lot for Rin. It was almost cute how utterly shocked he looked as if it was something he would have never ever expected to be true - and the way Haru knew him the idea maybe wasn't even so far off - and Haru felt his heart flutter while he placed a soft kiss on Rin's cheek. "I love you, Rin.", he whispered again.
It seemed to finally tear the guy out of his shocked rigor because like at the push of a button he teared up again. Haru only caught a little glance of it though because the next moment Rin had pushed himself up and pulled him into a bone-crushing hug. Stifled sobs and sniffled 'Haru's followed and Haru just smiled into Rin's shoulder.
Really. Such a baby.