disclaimer: i own nothing.
a/n: oops i slipped and makoharu'd! warnings for unbeta'd-ness and shameless fluff.
under autumn skies
It's 7:47 on a Tuesday morning, and Haruka is certain the world is ending.
The autumn sky is cloudless, the sun just bright enough to promise a glorious August day without being too warm, and the air crisp and balmy. It's perfect weather for swimming, and every nerve in Haruka's body has been thrumming with the anticipation of a swim from the moment he woke up.
It's 7:47 on a Tuesday morning, and Haruka is ready in his school uniform, at the top of the steps outside his door, but Makoto isn't there—and surely, surely the world is ending.
Haruka's only just in time, and the bell is about two minutes from ringing when he finds himself at the doorway of his classroom. He blinks, suddenly confused. He can barely remember the walk to school, besides the number of times he'd imagined Makoto's voice calling out to him. But every time he'd turned to look, there'd been no one there. No one besides random passersby giving him odd looks.
(Why had they been looking at him like that, in the midst of mundane things like walking their dogs and going for a jog or hurrying to work, when there were rather more pressing things like the end of the world to worry about?)
Standing at the doorway of his classroom now, it's only the idle chatter of his classmates that seems to have snapped him out his daze.
Eyes skimming across the room unfocusedly, he thinks he sees Nagisa's energetically waving arms beckoning him over from Makoto's seat at the back, around which the boys have all gathered. Hitching his bag over his shoulder, he stumbles forward in its general direction.
"Haruka-senpai," says Rei seriously as he arrives, adjusting his glasses on the bridge of his nose to peer at him in concern. "Are you all right? You look a bit—"
"Man, what a surprise to see Mako-chan walking in without you this morning!" Nagisa cuts in loudly, theatrically clutching his heart. "Birds stopped singing… Oceans stood still… Rei-chan did ten flawless laps of freestyle, up and down the pool…"
"N-Nagisa-kun!" cries Rei, colouring in affront.
"It's alright," Nagisa goes on cheerfully, ignoring him. With a devious smirk, he elbows Haruka in the ribs and leans up close to him. "Makoto was just telling us aaaaall about it! That little lovers' tiff you had last night and all…" He breaks off, chuckling.
"Nagisa-chan!" Haruka can hear Makoto's voice so clearly in his head, he turns abruptly to look him. But Makoto hasn't said a word, and he isn't pouting, his cheeks aren't pink, his forehead isn't furrowed like it's supposed to be just so…
"It's almost time for Miyaki-sensei to come in," he says instead, voice soft. Nagisa turns to look at him, and when he moves out of the way Haruka sees Makoto for the first time that morning. He has his nose buried in a book, and he doesn't look up. "Maybe Nagisa-chan and Rei-chan should go to their own class now."
"You're no fun," Nagisa sighs, but he glances at his watch and starts to head off with Rei in tow. "Haru-chan, Mako-chan, sort it out, will you? Oh but remember kids, you're in school so keep it PG-13!"
Tugging a flustered Rei along, he makes his way to the door. Finally, as Haruka slips into his usual seat—next to Makoto—he can hear himself think.
Makoto lifts his face from his book at last, and turns to him. His face starts to crack into a smile—and it's that same gentle smile, with his eyes starting to light up. But it's also different this time, in a way, because for the first time Haruka is aware of his heart speeding up, and a warmth that spreads all the way to the tips of his toes.
It's relief, he tells himself, as he quickly looks away to hide the flush rising in his cheeks. Relief that maybe he was wrong about the world ending, after all.
Because if this is still a world where Makoto can smile like this, how could it be ending?
"Good morning, Haru—," Makoto begins, but the smile hasn't quite reached his eyes when it suddenly falters, "—Haruka," he finishes in a murmur, and returns to his book a little too quickly, maybe.
All too soon, a sudden chill replaces the warmth.
Shaking off the queasy feeling in his stomach, Haruka digs into his bag to take out a book. After a few moments of searching, he notices he's forgotten to bring a pen in the daze he'd fallen into earlier that morning.
Abruptly, he straightens up. He could have sworn he felt a hand hovering near his shoulder, and when he turns to the side he's half-expecting to see Makoto wordlessly offering him a pen, with that gentle smile lighting up his face.
But he isn't; and when Miyaki-sensei walks in, he looks up from his book and still doesn't turn to Haruka with a smile and his hand held out to him.
It's 8:05, and Haruka can miserably confirm that the world is still ending.
Moments after Miyaki-sensei leaves the classroom, Gou appears at the door to call Haruka and Makoto outside, long red ponytail bouncing at her back.
"Meeting at break!" she announces, once she has the Iwatobi Swim Club boys rounded up in a circle in the corridor.
"What for?" groans Rei. "I have a history exam right after that!"
"Which you've been studying for since last month, so I think you'll live," says Gou, elbowing him in the ribs hard enough to knock the wind out of him. "Anyway," she continues sweetly, "You all need to switch up your training regimens! I read the other day that if you don't keep doing that, it'll stop being effective after a while."
Nagisa nods sagely, and Rei adjusts his glasses. "Well, that's because our body tends to get used to sustained levels of activ—"
"Yeah, yeah, whatever," says Gou airily, waving him off. "What I'm here to tell you, though," she says brightly, looking around at all of them, "Is I'll be needing all your opinions on the rough draft of the training schedules I've come up with for you guys!"
"Roger!" says Nagisa, mirroring her fist-pump.
"I need to finish my biology homework," says Haruka, suddenly remembering.
"Whaaat?" Gou wails. She balls up her fists, and starts to suck in a breath. Her cheeks puff out as she proceeds to hold it in. And keep puffing out. Red-faced and teetering on the balls of her feet, she turns to glare at Makoto.
Finally, the breath she was holding comes out all in a rush. When she's stopped coughing and gasping for air, she points an accusatory finger at Makoto. "You!" she demands. "You were supposed to say it!"
Makoto's eyes widen a fraction, and he looks away. "What was I supposed to say?" he asks softly.
"You know…" says Gou, starting to flush in embarrassment, though she isn't sure why. "The—The way you always do! When something happens to N-Nanase-kun. You offer to help, immediately." She's looking at her feet by now, cheeks fully red. Somehow, it feels like she's just announced the most intimate secret she's ever known out loud. "You always do," she murmurs.
Makoto freezes for a moment; then he turns to Haruka. With a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, Haruka watches that horrible smile start to appear on his face—the one that won't quite reach his eyes.
"My bad," Makoto says softly. "Of course I'll help you, Haru—"
"Thank you," Haruka blurts out, before he can finish saying his name. His full name, and it's never sounded more hateful in his entire life. "But I'm almost done with it anyway."
He turns on his heel, and walks back into class.
It's 9:05, and it's still the end of the world.
During history class, Haruka finishes his biology homework with a pen he'd borrowed from a girl in his class. When he asked her for it, she'd looked at him and then looked around the class searching for someone, with a stricken expression on her face.
Haruka hates that he knows exactly who she'd been looking for, and he hates that expression on her face, because it means she can see it too.
It being the strange, unprecedented behaviour of one Makoto Tachibana, that obviously heralds the end of the world.
Resisting the urge to poke a hole through his homework and bore into the desk with the tip of the pen he'd borrowed, Haruka looks out through the window next to his seat and feels himself grow more and more ridiculously frustrated.
There are a thousand questions racing each other around in his brain, big and burning and written in bold, fiery red lettering, and they go something like this—
When had all these little things Makoto did for him started to become so familiar? To the extent that in their absence, it had begun to feel like the end of the world? (But it is the end of the world, it is.) When had he grown so used to Makoto's attentions—which should by all logic be annoying, but instead had ended up being—
Haruka shakes his head to get rid of that train of thought—he doesn't understand the questions, he tells himself, they don't make sense. And he feels like if he tried to think too hard about them, he'd find something huge, something life-changing, and he's not sure he's quite ready for that yet.
The bell rings, and Amano-sensei hobbles out of the classroom. It almost takes the students by surprise, because most of them had been texting or finishing up homework or just doodling or dozing off during the ancient, rather short-sighted teacher's lesson.
At the exact same moment Haruka gets up from his seat, Makoto stands up too. As one, they turn to each other and make eye contact and immediately glance away.
"The meeting," Makoto mumbles at last. "If you're done with your homework, we should—"
Haruka nods. (Why is Makoto asking? He should know. He always knows. This is wrong, wrong, all wrong.)
At the club room, Gou is unusually subdued. She avoids directly addressing either Haruka or Makoto, and even Nagisa looks upset.
Haruka feels his heart clench as he watches them—Nagisa staring at the ground, Rei looking uncertainly at Makoto and himself, and Gou quietly reading out the training regimens she'd drawn up for them.
He looks at his feet, unable to bear the look on their faces. (Wrong, wrong, all wrong.)
It's 12:13, there's no laughter or loud voices in the swim club room, and Haruka is sure it can only be the end of the world.
Throughout the meeting, Haruka hardly pays attention, and no one stops him when he wanders off to the pool. And when he loosens his tie and starts to unbutton his shirt, no one calls out to him to stop, this isn't the time, they have class after this!
"Haru-chan!" one last hopeful voice in head cries out, but Makoto is still inside, and there's no one calling out his name.
He kicks his foot against the railing, and can't stand to stay here another moment longer.
He has his lunch behind the gym, but he doesn't really have much of an appetite and ends up sharing most of it with the little family of cats that live there.
When he gets back to class, Makoto is at his seat finishing up his lunch by himself.
Mackerel sandwiches. He'd brought mackerel sandwiches. Makoto's mother made the most heavenly mackerel sandwiches, and Makoto had never brought mackerel sandwiches to school without telling him first thing in the morning.
He's never brought anything to school without sharing it with Haruka.
It's 12:51 on a beautiful Tuesday afternoon, and Haruka hasn't had a bite of Makoto's lunch, nor Makoto of Haruka's, and surely it must be the end of the world.
The water closes in over his head, and like the little bubbles he exhales, Haruka can feel his frustration dissipate at last.
The last few classes had flown past in a blur; right after the last bell had rung, Haruka had come here for a swim. He stays underwater as long as he can, and when he breaks the surface, he's almost calm.
The water has never failed him, even now, at the end of the world.
Looking up at the deceptively lovely sky, Haruka has the sudden, horrible feeling that maybe it's all his fault.
Why hadn't he noticed the things Makoto did for him? Those things he'd grown used to, maybe taken for granted? But he'd always thought Makoto would stay the same forever—one of the few constants in his life, like the calming embrace of the water
Suddenly, he realises he needs to see Makoto. The urgency grips him so tight he swims at once to the pool edge, and hauls himself out. He isn't sure what he'll say to Makoto, or what he plans to do when he sees him at all—all he knows is he needs to see him now, before it's too late.
These days it's a little cold for swimming, but the physical cold Haruka feels as he runs to the showers is nothing compared to the cold that settles in his bones when he looks for the fluffy blue towel Makoto always sets out for him next to his own green one, but doesn't find it.
He doesn't notice in his haste, but the autumn skies have turned dark and stormy as he exits the school building and breaks into a run.
He finds Makoto in a narrow lane they don't usually use on their way back from school—it's a shortcut, but for some reason they've never really ever talked about, they've always knowingly taken the long way home when they walk back together. Haruka isn't sure why he thinks to take the shortcut today, but when he races past the corner into the lane, it looks like Makoto has taken it too. Heart racing even faster than it should given the distance that he'd just run, he runs up behind Makoto, grabs him by the shoulders and shoves him against the wall of a dingy abandoned-looking building.
"Makoto!" he shouts urgently, though his face is inches from his own. "Makoto, can you hear me?"
Makoto only stares at him, speechless in shock, so Haruka shakes him by the collar. "Makoto!" he hisses again, desperately. "I know you're in there, don't let them get to you!"
"Haru—" Makoto begins, uncertainly searching his face for the joke, but Haruka won't let him finish.
"Shut up, shut up, shut up!" he cries, shaking his head, eyes squeezed shut in denial. "I'm not Haruka… You're not supposed to call me Haruka… You're supposed to say Haru-chan, and I'm supposed to answer, 'Cut it out with the –chan!' even though I don't mean it, not really, not at all, because 'Haru-chan,' is what you've always called me, it's you. And you can't change. You're not allowed to, not ever."
He's out of breath when he finishes, and as everything he'd just blurted out comes back in a rush, his stomach coils in embarrassment. Makoto is still looking at him like he's grown three extra heads, and he's about to start speaking, but Haruka doesn't think he can handle that right now.
"Fuck it," he thinks, and he does the first thing that comes to his mind. Shoving Makoto back against the wall, he presses his mouth to his.
Shit, I fucked up, a voice in his head commences a litany at once. I fucked up I fucked up I fucked up I fucked up—
But oh, was kissing your childhood best friend meant to feel so sweet? As the litany starts to fade into the background, other things burst into relief. Like Makoto's hair, brushing against his own forehead, and sending little jolts of electricity down his spine. Makoto's hands, big and warm and somehow linked with his own. And Makoto's lips, dry and chapped and so soft against his.
This is rather nice, he thinks to himself in a slight daze; this is nice enough that he wouldn't mind doing it for the rest of his life, really. His brain grows lighter and lighter as he keeps kissing Makoto, so when a hand touches his chest and pushes him away he blinks confusedly up at the other boy.
"Are you making fun of me?" says Makoto, and he doesn't sound angry, just terribly, terribly sad. Haruka hasn't felt so awful, ever, because he's the one who made this happen—he's the one who put this hurt that looks wrong, so wrong, on Makoto's kind, familiar, precious face.
"Did you have a talk with Rin?" Makoto asks, not making eye contact with him as the words chase each other out of his mouth in swift succession. "Did you have a laugh about it, decide to play a little—Aah," he exhales, covering his eyes with his palm. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I didn't mean that at all."
"Rin?" asks Haruka bemusedly. "What does Rin have to do with it?"
Makoto sighs, and makes eye contact with him at last. "I ran into him yesterday," he murmurs. "Outside school, when I was waiting for you. I had—" he flushes, and glances away, "I had split an ice, and he asked me who it was for. And when I told him he asked me if I was your—if I was… It wasn't his fault, though!" he hurriedly says, flushed to the roots of his hair by now. "I know Rin has issues of his own to sort out so he can be a bit—direct at times? But he didn't mean to be cruel, and at any rate, he was right. I do act a bit—much sometimes, and I don't realise it. And I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm going to change, I promise."
Haruka remembers walking home with Makoto yesterday; he'd been unusually quiet. When it was just the two of them together, sometimes Makoto would keep talking about this and that, and sometimes there'd be a comfortable silence between them. But yesterday there had been a silence that had felt cold and stifling instead.
He closes his eyes, trying to collect the trying to collect his thoughts out of the jumbled mess of emotions crowding his brain.
"But Makoto…" he murmurs eventually. It's started to rain, in great big pelts that soak their shirts all the way through. "Do you still want to split ices with me?"
He looks at his friend, heart thudding painfully against his chest, hoping against hope that there's a part of him he can still reach out to—that somehow, somehow they could beat this, together.
"Yes," Makoto answers softly, "I'm sorry, Haru-chan, but I do."
Haruka's eyes widen, and those aren't tears pricking at the corners of his eyes, it's only the rain. Heart soaring, he throws his arms around Makoto as tightly as he can.
"Don't ever be sorry," he murmurs, "Split ices with me forever."
(Stay with me, he thinks he means to say, stay with me through the changeable autumn skies, stay with me forever. He doesn't say it, but he hopes Makoto will understand anyway—just like he always has.)
"Do you really mean that?" Makoto gasps into his hair—he sounds almost broken, like he's hardly daring to believe.
"Yes," Haruka says, the rain pricking at his eyes again. It's the rain, of course it's only the rain. "Yes, I do."
He pulls back, and Makoto's eyes are shining and he's smiling—his full, real smile, the one that lights up his face all the way up to his eyes.
Haruka can't help it—he's too happy, and Makoto's smile is too bright, too blinding, so he leans forward and kisses him again.
He pulls back this time in a second—what is he doing? he thinks, his heart sinking.
He isn't prepared for Makoto to place a hand on the back of his head, and pull him back in. "Don't stop there," he urges.
"But you don't—" says Haruka, because Makoto couldn't, he couldn't, he couldn't.
"But I do," Makoto laughs, "And I have for a long time now. I know Rin is wrong about a lot of things, but this wasn't one of them. So kiss me, please, before I call you by your full name again."
And Haruka doesn't need telling twice.
It's 4:23 in the afternoon, and Makoto smiles against Haruka's lips in the rain—and maybe, just maybe, the world won't be ending today after all.
It's a lovely Wednesday morning, not unlike the last, and Makoto puts down the kitten he'd been playing with on the steps and straightens up to face Haru.
For a long moment, they simply stare at each other awkwardly, fiddling with the straps of their schoolbags.
"Can I—?" Makoto blurts out presently, and he glances at Haruka's mouth, face bright red.
Haruka nods; if this is the life-changing turn of events he'd expected to see, he wonders, as Makoto leans in to kiss him, he thinks he could get used to it.
When they break the kiss, several moments later, Makoto smiles at him, wide and full and beautiful. "Good morning, Haru-chan," he says, and for a moment Haruka forgets to breathe.
"Stop it with the -chan already," he matters, glancing away, and this time, remembering his embarrassing outburst from yesterday, it's his turn to blush.
Makoto laughs, pulls a tiny leaf out of Haruka's hair, and they set off for school together.
It's 7:47 on Wednesday morning, and together they've beaten the end of the world.
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