blessings in and of days counting
By – Hime no Ichigo
Pairings: TACHIBANA Makoto x NANASE Haruka
Summary: Count your blessings, it tells him, but he has long been doing that.
Disclaimer: Free! is the property of Kyoto Animation.
Notes: Written for the 2013 Makoto Birthday Fanworks Exchange. I took loads of liberties with this and I apologize in advance for the potential angst dotted here and there, I can't escape its grasp... I hope you enjoy it, Marskels!
For as long as Haruka can remember – when their parents finally allowed them to use phones once they were sure they wouldn't prank call, when they got their first cell phones – there hasn't been a day when they don't exchange mail or a call.
Two days before their third year begins, Makoto asks if he's free to go out for a couple of hours to see the cherry blossoms, while they're still in full bloom and before school crunches in on them. Third year means more than necessary hard work, less than liked free time, and there's no way they're letting this sort of opportunity slip by their fingers.
"Haru, the weather finally let up! Please tell me you're free this afternoon."
"I am, but—"
"Great! I'll be over in about ten minutes. Don't stay in the bathtub too long again, we have to save the best seat! I'll tell Nagisa to call Rei for us."
And like that, Makoto hangs up; not giving him another chance to change his answer. What is this, a double date?
The first thing you say is the most honest thing, Haruka remembers Makoto telling him in passing—not directly for him—but he's pretty sure it's still meant to imply something about him anyway; Makoto has that way of saying things.
Haruka stares at his phone. With Makoto, ten minutes is actually seven and a half (curse his long legs)—but that's enough time for him to throw on a shirt and a pair of pants to look presentable in public (it's not like he has to dress in the most stylish or whatever, anything comfortable will do), and—
Well, he can keep his trunks on, it's not like anyone would know or pay him any attention, right? He looks down at his feet. Besides, he reasons with himself, the park has a nice river nearby. And if Makoto doesn't stop him or, rather, do anything to him...
Yeah, he'll keep his trunks on.
Summer of their second year—mid-August, to be precise, where it's simply too stifling hot to move a muscle.
There's a subtle change in tone in the way Makoto speaks, gentler and with a rare hint of melancholy that will escape the untrained ear. But not to Haruka; he knows more than enough to understand the significance behind the request and not question further on it.
Haruka walks over with a lantern of his own, and a flower from his own yard. The Tachibana household is relatively quiet, compared to the festival and the sound of drums just a few blocks away. Even Ren and Ran are more subdued than usual, not clambering over them or fighting over game consoles.
"Is Nagisa coming?"
"No, I didn't call him...besides, he's busy with Rei." Makoto chuckles at his friend's arched eyebrow. "No, I didn't ask for details, but I'm sure they're enjoying themselves."
Haruka doesn't push the subject, instead putting the flower into the bottle Makoto prepared already. It's still a sensitive topic for him, he knows, and he isn't the type to push anyone into broadcasting secrets.
"...Thank you, Haru."
"This isn't something to thank me for," he gives him a look.
Makoto smiles sheepishly. "But you don't have to go along with it every time, it's okay if you've got something else to do."
"Idiot." Haruka says shortly. "I'm not doing this out of obligation. You should know that by now."
Makoto's eyes widen at his assertiveness—rare and meaningful. He indulges in a small smile, as he stares at the spot in front of the flowerbed, where his fishes were buried a decade ago. He leans onto Haruka's shoulder, a positive sign of relaxation.
"Can you come with me tomorrow too?"
"For the boats?"
"Yeah..." Makoto nods vaguely. "Ah, but promise me that there's no repeat of last year!"
Haruka stares down at him, offended that he's still harping on his tendency to step into water anywhere, and after getting a genuine laugh out of Makoto, they lapse into that quiet silence they've both grown rather fond of.
Autumn, for all if its winds and frosted mornings not quite due for his liking, is actually very warm.
For once, Haruka doesn't call Makoto to accompany him to the stores—which he hates to do, because sales people are too kind in escorting him left and right, and there are simply too many Christmas-y things to filter out when he's trying to look for something more, more—
Something that suits Makoto; none of the red and white stuff with little Santas and snowmen. And certainly none of those annoying Christmas carols are helping his cause.
"May I help you if you are looking for something in particular?"
"It's fine, thanks." A person of little words, he resists the urge to snap and repeats to himself that they're just doing their job. Never mind that it's the twenty-third time. Quickly running out of ideas, he defaults to a detour to look for things for himself.
The display case for new swimming trunks catches his eye.
"This one would go well with you," he murmurs, sifting through the racks and settling on a black pair with a minimal green design. Haruka checks for the size, making mental adjustments as he remembers Makoto mentioning that his growth spurt hasn't stopped, even when he's already at a startling height of 170 centimetres.
On the evening of the sixteenth of November, Haruka simply rings the doorbell to the Tachibana residence without so much as a call to warn them of his arrival.
Two blobs simultaneously attack him right in the middle, almost crushing the bag containing the present. Haruka holds it above their heads as they continue to try to bowl him over, laughing all the while.
"Ren! Ran! What are you guys doing? ...Haru?! What are you doing here?"
"To see you."
There's no deeper meaning, really, but Makoto is embarrassed by how straightforward his friend is. "Ren, Ran, mother wants you two to set the table."
"No buts," he says sternly, "you can play with Haru-nii-chan next time."
They pout and whine and make faces at him, to all of which he compromises by bribing them with a little extra dessert—only then do the siblings leave them alone, and Makoto closes the door behind him.
"You should've called."
"I wanted to surprise you. Happy sixteenth birthday, Makoto."
He peers into the bag, and in so intently doing, Haruka seizes the urge and opportunity to kiss him on the cheek.
Really, it's a good thing the door is closed.
Being sociable is an effort wasted on Haruka.
He dislikes the idea of being around people, strangers worse still, especially when he knows they're itching to go home instead. It has been like this since elementary, and he doesn't see the point in changing his lifestyle anytime soon.
There is one person, though, with whom he doesn't mind spending time.
"Do you think we'll be in the same class when we go on to Iwatobi High School?"
"Makoto, don't worry about this sort of thing. It's not something you can control."
—Their parting words before the winter holidays. It leaves a sour taste in his mouth.
For a week and a half, all of his calls miss Makoto, and on the lucky few occasions he does pick up, he has to go quickly.
"I'm sorry, Haru, the past few days has just been so hectic," he apologizes.
"It's fine." He clamps his phone firmly between his shoulder and ear as he continues to cook his mackerel. "Actually," he says on a whim, "do you want to go visit the Shinto shrine with me?"
"Sure! Let's go tonight, I'll drop by at around eleven?"
"Your parents are okay with that?"
"I've been helping out all this time, it's the least they can do."
"If you're sure..."
"More than sure, I'll see you in a couple of hours."
The shrine is terribly crowded, many more people with the same idea as Makoto that this justifies staying out so late. He takes Haruka's hand and slips them into his pocket, "So we don't get separated. And I don't think I can hear my phone above all this noise."
It's a thinly disguised excuse; Haruka says nothing as they squeeze through the mass to the already-busy booths, though he's glad for the extra bit of warmth and closeness.
"How does your oracle look this year?"
"Can't complain, what about you, Haru?"
"Can't complain either." Count your blessings, it tells him.
And he does, the very first thing being the existence of Tachibana Makoto, and how he's so fortunate and lucky to have him, since so long ago, as a friend, a confidant, a—
Haruka stops walking. "Makoto, thank you."
He looks puzzled, but laughs. "For what?"
"Anything and everything. I—"
His next words are drowned out by everyone congratulating friends and strangers on a happy new year.
Makoto's smile broadens as he reads his lips, and squeezes Haruka's hand still in his coat pocket in understanding.
—Three, two, one—
The buzzer goes off exactly as he predicts, and Makoto's ever-cheerful face greets him the moment he opens the door to his university dormitory. Neither of them have changed much.
Haruka nods, motioning for him to come in. He quickly makes himself at home.
"Just so you know, I'm not letting you sleep tonight."
"...Is that a come on?"
"No, I rented horror movies for us to watch."