Warnings: Contains Makoto angst and High Speed! spoilers.
A/N: It would make more sense if you read High Speed!, but it's okay if you didn't either. Free! never got around to talk about that incident, so I'm addressing it in this fic. I actually started off writing this as a prompt... But it turned into this in the end. Enjoy.
Mood music: Free! OST Ever Blue Sounds Disc 1 Track 30- [I need you]
Makoto is not only afraid the ocean, but the water in general.
It started with seeing the lines of people in white clothes at the harbor and finding out a boat had sunk, along with the fishermen on it. That was even though they were only 3km away from shore— the distance he swam everyday.
His fear was only made worse when he witnessed Haru almost drowning when they were little. Then his goldfish died. Lifeless in the water, being swallowed by it despite it being the most natural place for them to be in, just as what it almost did to Haruka. He would start to tremble whenever the fear came, and he was always running away from the water, even when he was swimming. He only felt better when he had finally opened up to Haru about the feelings he had been keeping to himself.
The incident with Haru drowning was never brought up again after that, and Makoto chose to keep the memory locked away.
Then came the medley relay, where he managed to dismiss his fear of the water for the first time, swimming in order to reach Haru and the others. He felt like he was embracing the ocean, the clear blue sky. From then on he had tried harder to overcome his fear of the water, because he truly wanted to swim with Haru. He let himself imagine being swept away—except instead of water, it was by ocean blue eyes. If it's Haru, it's okay. Sometime after that he told Haru how he thought he had gotten over his fear of the water.
"Even the ocean?"
Makoto suddenly recalled the incident at the harbor and hesitated, but eventually smiled and replied, "Un."
He thought Haru probably saw through him, but chose to keep quiet about it like he always did. But it was okay; he would get over it slowly, but eventually. At least he felt comfortable enough in the pool now.
He never thought that years later, during the training camp, he would be forced to face his fear again. But it gave him a chance to reaffirm his feelings with Haru. He was shaken by what had happened, but the feelings of being able to swim with Haru, with everyone, gave him strength. Haru even gave him new goldfishes afterwards. He felt an overwhelming sense of warmth and gratitude. Haru gave him the symbol of a new beginning and he was going to take good care of them. He resolved himself to let go of the past. From then on he would embrace the future wholeheartedly, swim towards it together with Haru— with the others.
Then, during the medley relay with Haru, Rin and Nagisa again, Makoto felt the same sensation he had when he swam it with them the first time. He felt calm and determined in the water—He felt free. At that point in time, he never would have expected the fear to return to engulf him once more.
Even after everything, his daily routine with Haru had remained relatively unchanged. Makoto would still make his way to Haru's house during mornings to get him out of the bathtub and ready for school. What changed was how Haru smiled more often now. When he takes Makoto's hand, he smiles. Sometimes, Haru even waits for Makoto instead.
It was a stormy morning when Makoto was making his way to Haru's house. The drainageways were overflowing with rainwater. It was then he saw something struggling in the water. Something white and— It was the stray cat he often played with on his way to school. Horrified, he dropped his umbrella and chased after it, hoping to prevent it from being swept away by the current. But when he managed to get it out of the water, he realized it wasn't breathing anymore. The thunder roared. Makoto felt his whole body tense.
The memory and guilt of failing to save Rei came flowing back to him. What would have happened then if Haru and Nagisa hadn't noticed in time? He crouched and hugged the cold, still ball of fur in his arms. He started to breathe heavily. He started to block out his thoughts. If not—
"H-Haru… Haru… Haru… Haru!"
Makoto felt himself trembling. The memory was coming back to him. The terrifying piece of memory he had kept locked away all this time, refused to let surface. The water trying to take Haru away—
"Sorry," he whispered as he gently placed the cat down. "I have to…"
He ran. He ran and entered through the back of the house and carelessly pushed the sliding door open.
Haruka's eyes widened, and he stood up from the bathtub. Makoto was panting, looking flustered, and he was soaking wet.
"Makoto? What happened? Why are you—"
Makoto shifted, telling himself to calm down. He averted his eyes. He couldn't let Haru see through him.
I guess seeing your face took care of it. Makoto didn't say anything, but Haruka thought that then and there, he heard those exact same words from years ago.
"It just started raining all of a sudden and—"
"We're going to be late if you don't hurry up, Haru…"
Makoto sounded pleading. He was putting on his usual smile and offering his hand. The smile was genuine but also pained. Haruka wanted to know what was wrong, but he wouldn't pry if Makoto didn't want him too. At least for now… He took Makoto's offered hand and squeezed it. "Ah."
"Makoto should change too. There should be an extra set of school uniform you left here."
Makoto's heart felt lighter. He felt bad about lying to Haru, but he needed some time consolidate himself. He didn't want Haru to worry unnecessarily, not when he didn't know what to make of the whirl of emotions that came back to him so suddenly, and especially not when the issues with Rin were finally resolved.
They walked to school in silence after that.
For the rest of the day, other than being occasionally distracted in class, Makoto was his usual self.
Makoto jumped when he felt the sudden tap on his shoulder and stood up from his seat.
Ama-chan-sensei was looking at him disapprovingly, arms folded. "I keep saying that it's not good to be daydreaming in class. There's a saying that goes—"
"Sorry, sensei! I was just thinking about… Um…"
Makoto scratched his cheek. "Eh? Actually, what was I thinking about?"
Ama-chan sighed, shaking her head. There were giggles, and Makoto simply laughed it off good-naturedly. Makoto may seem like his usual self, but Haruka knew that something was definitely wrong.
In the afternoon, the skies cleared, so the boys could have their swimming practice.
It was Makoto's turn. He had been trying not to recall what had happened in the morning. He guessed he was fine after all. But when he dived into the water, the images came flooding back into his mind. The cat. Rei. The old fisherman. Haru. He was running away from the water again. From something frightening, hiding within the shadows of the water. Makoto stopped swimming abruptly. His heart was pounding hard. His hands started to tremble. Please. Stop.
"Makoto-senpai, is there something wrong?"
Makoto was jolted out of his thoughts. Rei had swum over to him because he was worried.
Makoto pushed his goggles up and smiled. "Sorry, I'm fine. I've just been feeling unwell since this morning."
"I see." Rei heaved a sigh of relief. "Do you want to stop practicing for the day?"
Haruka watched, unable move from his spot. His heart was pounding hard.
"Did Mako-chan swallow some water?"
No, he thought. This has happened before.
He had felt this before. The smile was going to turn into tears any second. This time, he wasn't going to turn his eyes away. He had to go to Makoto. Move.
A hand reached out to Makoto when he was at the edge of the pool.
Makoto's eyes felt hot. He took the hand gratefully. He felt like he wouldn't have the energy to get out of the pool by himself.
He didn't let Haru finish what he wanted to say. He couldn't meet him in the eye.
Just as Haru was about to tighten his grip, Makoto hurriedly released it and left. Haru stopped in his tracks. His eyes widened. As Makoto passed him, he saw an expression in his eyes that he had never seen before.
"I wonder what happened to Mako-chan…"
"Ah, Makoto-senpai said he was not feeling well and that it's okay if we practice on our own for today…" Rei replied as he glanced at Haru unsurely. "Haruka…-senpai?"
Ever since the relay, Rin started to frequently visit them during their practices. "Yo." He smiled as he greeted them. His expression then became stern again.
"Haru, I need to talk to you."
Nagisa and Rei glanced at each other, then excused themselves by jumping into the pool.
Haruka's mind was in a state of blank as Rin continued to talk.
"I saw what happened. That was… not Makoto's stroke. "
Haruka simply remained silent. What was that look in Makoto's eyes…? He felt his heart clench.
"I've… seen that look on him before." When he passed Makoto earlier Makoto had simply nodded at him, without giving him his usual warm greeting. Rin recalled the same kind of look he saw on Makoto during the incident where Haru almost drowned. He remembered Makoto in a hysterical state, continuously crying out Haru's name. He had never seen anyone so terrified by anything before. "What happened?"
Haruka's eyes widened. Did Rin know something he didn't? "I… I don't know."
"Tsk. When you were drowning. He had that same look he had just now. He was trembling. Something must have happened."
Then it struck Haruka.
'When you fell into the river, Haru, I was so scared I was shaking. Even when I tried to make it stop, I just kept shaking on the inside. My hands and my legs and all of me were shaking so hard that I couldn't stop it.'
The incident was never brought up by Makoto ever since then. As for him, it has always felt natural to be with the water. The incident didn't affect him all that much. But it must have affected Makoto so much that he has been choosing not to talk about it, think about it. He remembered when he thought that he was going to lose Makoto.
He was so scared he was trembling. He even had nightmares of it afterwards. Now he couldn't imagine how much of an impact the incident could have had on Makoto. Something must have happened to cause Makoto to remember. He knew the feeling all too well. He should have known. He knew. Makoto might have gotten over his fear of the water, the ocean, but he never got over his fear of losing Haru.
'I want to swim with you!'
He had to go to Makoto now.
Makoto closed the door to the locker room. His legs felt weak. His body was trembling. He has never felt like this for a long time now. He hugged his knees to his chest. His tears fell uncontrollably. He was running away from the water again. He must have worried Haru.
'I'm glad you're here for me.'
Even though he knew, he couldn't help the immense joy he felt when Haru had actually told him that. Even though Haru said that, Makoto is the one who has always felt that he's glad to have Haru by his side all this time. They can always be themselves with each other. Even so, Makoto didn't want his weakness to be a burden to Haru, or to the team. Just because he was affected by little things like that, he didn't want it to affect everyone else. Everyone was finally swimming happily again…
He heard footsteps from the outside and wiped his eyes. Just as he was about stand up, Haru burst into the room.
"Haru…" Makoto smiled. "What are you doing here?"
Makoto looked away. He couldn't bear Haru looking at him like that.
Haru closed the door and started walking towards him.
"Tell me what happened."
Haruka placed a hand on Makoto's cheek, and gently turned his face towards him. He had been crying.
"You were afraid of the water, weren't you?"
Makoto pursed his lips. They had this conversation before. Haru has always been able to see through his heart. It has always been like this. Even if he wanted to keep it from Haru, he couldn't.
"Just now, it was the first time I saw Makoto like that. I didn't know what to do."
"I'm afraid of losing Makoto. I was scared. It was the same during that training camp. I was so scared I was shaking. That's why I understand how you feel. You don't have to tell me, but…"
Makoto's eyes widened. For a moment, Haru just gazed at him. It was a comfortable silence. He always manages to feel relaxed around Haru.
"It's meaningless without Makoto."
Makoto was swept away by the ocean blue gaze. If it's Haru, it's okay.
"I'm sorry, Haru. I was… "
Makoto told him. Haru listened without saying anything.
"It's enough, Makoto."
Haru took his hand and held it.
"I won't go anywhere."
"You're an idiot. Stop thinking only for everyone else…"
Haruka put his arms around Makoto and tightened them around him.
Makoto blinked away his tears and smiled.
"Yes. I'm glad you're here for me."
Makoto returned the embrace.
A/N: The line about swimming towards the future... I wrote it because Makoto has a character song called 'Mirai e no Stroke' *cough cough* I hope you have fun with the other parallels ^^ I enjoy reviews!