A/N: Is this chapter done, yet?! Haha

A/N: I took some liberties with stretching the English language a bit, so something that looks typical may carry a double meaning!

Sweeter Than You!

CH 2

Someplace between midday and dusk, the dimmed pigments of the sun splashed long shadows beneath all it touched. Colors of pink and indigo intermingled together like billowy cloth as they stretched across the heavens and encompassed the fiery globe. An ethereal lining of orangey-yellow accented Rin's frame and kissed the tips of his bouncing tresses with its incalescence as he jogged throughout the small fishing town. His soles slammed against the concrete roads, pivoting slightly on occasion when a turn was needed. He knew these streets well and had little need for caution. After all, whenever Haruka was involved, Rin's better judgments tended to elude him at whim. But in light of matters of higher importance, he absolutely could not wait to show Haruka all of what he bought for him. Cradled in one arm, he secured a large white basket that had been delicately wrapped with glossy red plastic. The store he finally managed to pull himself away from had run fresh out of blue, but instead had a color that matched his eyes. Not wanting to stay in that place any longer than he had to, Rin just chose to accept it, then rushed out cackling to himself like a possessed madman.

Going by his heart, rather than any other influence, Rin felt as if he had given his very best with the purchases. Plush toys of a bottle-nose dolphin, rockhopper penguin, butterfly and orca were arranged tenderly along the interior rim of the basket. There was turquoise paper beneath them to make it look like they were swimming in a circle—save for the butterfly, of course. As to why Rin chose that over another creature that actually shared the underwater theme, he himself didn't know; but the thought of a creature so majestic resting on Haruka's head pleased Rin, so added it was! In the middle of the group, there was a large plushie of a tiger shark with bared teeth and appearing to leap out of the "water". Aside from his opinion of the butterfly, the shark was the only toy Rin actually liked. He didn't care if Makoto didn't consider them to be cute. His inner musings at the time were 'Haru might like this, and I like it, so it's going in!'

The stuffed animals weren't the only goodies in the basket. Due to Rin being a new costumer, he was granted a small box of assorted chocolates, a single pink rose and a condom. Needless to say, he didn't want THAT in with everything else and had hidden it away in his wallet instead. And, ironically enough, the candy was mackerel shaped. Since the place held business surrounded by fishery towns, that accursed shape just...made...sense...didn't it? And because Haruka was so enthralled with that type of fish, Rin found the absurdity just barely tolerable. He probably would have laughed had it not been so immensely unfunny to him.

Finally, Rin reached the stairs that led to Haruka's house and dashed up them 3 at a time. As soon as he faced the front door, his fist wasted no time banging against it. "Haru! Hey Haru! Are you home?!" he bellowed. Impatient, he stood around, peeking through the windows, while awaiting any sign of movement from beyond the door. Adrenaline rushed through him and prickled the back of his neck as he anxiously readied for a response that didn't arrive. After a few seconds of lost time, he grasped the doorknob and wrenched it.

Locked.

Annoyed, Rin thew his eyes over to the path leading to the backyard and soon followed after it. The door there was unlatched, however, and he let himself in. After removing his shoes, his anxiety ebbed considerably at the idea of being so nearby to Haruka. "Haru? I'm back!" he called out expectantly, searching his surroundings. He strained his ears to listen openly as he padded through the corridor. The excitement that had swelled within him had begun to deflate by each passing second that he received no sign of his friend. In his eagerness, he had already walked past nearly every room on the first floor. He suddenly felt too large in a house that appeared to occupy only himself. It was smothering and it prompted him to call for Haruka once more without fully realizing it. When he wasn't met with any kind of reply, his tone simmered to an unfamiliar docility he solely used when alone, "...Just letting you know in case you're home... At least, I hope you're still here. I didn't want to rush back here for nothing. It really sucks when you're not around..."

A few minutes transpired, and already Rin had passed every room on he lower level twice. With still not yet having seen his reason for being in this place, he decided to set Haruka's present down atop the table in the kitchen. At least then, he'd be able to see it without fail. Unconsciously, Rin's eyes began to move about the room and take in all that was around him. Despite the smallish confines of the room, every pan, plate and pot were put away nicely as far as he could see. There was no aroma of food, most notably not one of fish. His mind wandered to musings of if Haruka would ever cook any meat, if he asked for it. Eating nothing but mackerel dishes may give proteins, but as nutritious as it were, more balance was needed in Haruka's diet. Maybe one day soon, they could sit down and have a meal together—just the two of them. The slightness of an appeased smile whispered over Rin's lips at the concept. He liked that very much.

Just then, faint sounds of rapid water emerging from the bathroom a few doors away from him tickled Rin's ears. He spun on his heels and emerged from the kitchen to search out where it was coming from; at the same time, his heart throbbed and his breath hitched. Haruka was home? If asked, the impassioned teen would have denied any and all evidence of it, but the sheer joy of being able to see and spend time with Haruka literally made his day. A boyish grin dashed across Rin's face like he had just happened upon another's mischievous secret. As he stepped into a sliver of a shadow upon the doorway's threshold, that childishness then scampered off traceless.

"Haru...I'm coming in," he warned cautiously, one hand already prepared to slide the barrier between them to the side. After the announcement, Rin heard nothing but the spray of the water, but it soon subsided afterward. What Rin didn't hear was the shock described within Haruka's voice, nor did he see the awe etched over the other's visage.

"... ...Rin?" The name practically melted atop Haruka's tongue from how breathlessly it emerged. To whether he expected an occurrence like this or not was unknown. But so far, he didn't seem to dissuade it, "...Okay. I don't mind, go ahead."

Wait.

Pause.

Did he really just nonchalantly condone being walked in on while in the bathroom?

For a while, Rin only stood there, as stiff as stone, processing what he had just heard. It wasn't so much the admission into the room with another guy that made reason for hesitation, but the coolness of the permission itself. Had Haruka expected this to happen one day? Did he plan for this? Was he playing a prank on him? How exactly did Haruka think of him; what were his feelings? They were already friends, right? Did Haruka want them to become more than that? Rin could certainly attest to wanting the same. Then, he cursed to himself. 'We're not going out, stupid! We absolutely are not going out, so stop getting happy thinking about it!'

Needless to say, an obvious interest was active and had been for a long time. Yet, while Rin was indeed curious, at the same time, he didn't want to concern himself with such ponderings now. He was already having quite a hard enough time getting himself to open the door. He barely was able to slide it ajar before his pupils shrank to pinpoints and glazed over the very wet, and very naked, Haruka's body. Rin inwardly swore. Well, what did he expect to see from someone who had been washing themselves? They certainly couldn't get clean while wearing a swimsuit!—Oh wait. Rin had to remember that this was Haruka he was wrongly thinking about as "normal". Maybe he half expected him to be in his swimwear and that pretense was the only reason he even bothered to sneak a look in the first place.

Yeah, that was it..

Judging by the lack of soapsuds on his body, Haruka seemingly had finished with his shower and had just turned towards the bathtub with his back to Rin. Thoroughly flustered, and highly enamored, Rin stood there gawking at his friend while Haruka lifted one leg and swung it over the tub, then did the same with the other.

"Did you forget something, Rin?" Haruka questioned as quietly and drolly as ever as he leisurely sunk into the welcoming liquid. His brash counterpart, however, did not share the same ease in regards to their situation. But instead of an expected sputtering of unintelligent fragments and expletives, all Rin's mouth could shape was a bemused and thoughtful "...No..." Since he had nothing to say, Haruka had to do the honors for him. There was a miniscule tug at a corners of his mouth that may as well have been imaginary as he returned his eyes to Rin, "Since you're here, you should take a bath too."

"Are you NUTS?!" Rin figuratively bit his tongue and rewired his words to defer from where his interests, on Haruka, last lingered, "-I-I mean INSANE?! Th-there is no way I'm gonna-!"

"Rin. It's okay," Haruka continued in his usual subdued tones. It practically sounded that this were a normal everyday occurrence for him- And in the case of Makoto barging in on him while in the tub, perhaps it was. Even still, Makoto was not Rin and Haruka shared more than enough satisfaction with that fact. "We're both guys. It doesn't bother me."

"...!" Rin groused and mumbled to himself in thought. On one hand, he was more than willing to shed his garments and join Haruka; he was the type who preferred cleanliness anyway. But, on the other hand, perhaps he just entered the area at a bad time and should do well to promptly leave.

Like THAT was going to happen!

"Tch, fine..." He gave in—effortlessly, at that. It took him less than 10 seconds to undress, even while captured by vivid oceanic eyes. Haruka didn't really care that he was openly staring. It was normal to look at another male while he took his clothes off in front of you, wasn't it? It was also perfectly fine to trace one's eyes over the physique and grant the imagination access to thoughts that would otherwise be considered unobtainable. It wasn't until Rin turned his head towards him that Haruka happened upon realization of being caught in the act of silently ogling. Not knowing how Rin would react, he pretended to be more interested in the smears along the steamed window to the right of him.

"..." It was Rin's turn to become quiet, this time. But he was stunned by neither shock or embarrassment. In contrast, he chuckled cockily as one would do with a subtle inside joke. So even Haruka had a case of wandering eyes when it came to him, did he? Well, he couldn't exactly blame him. He DID have the body of a god, and all. Amused, the one whose form was sculpted greater than Apollo and Adonis combined folded his clothes and placed them atop a corner of the sink. A teasing grin on his face, Rin sauntered, with a sensual sweep of his hips, placing one foot before the other as he did a catwalk towards the tub. It wasn't as nearly meant to be temptation as much as it really was a show of ego- at least to Rin, anyway. On the way there, however, he stopped at the mounted shower and grabbed a bar of soap from nearby. "Hey. No peeking, over there... unless you're looking to get jealous, Haru," he jeered provocatively while sending a daring smirk and hooded lids Haruka's way.

Vast blue flickered over to the arrogant spectacle before flinging upto the ceiling and then towards a nondescript elsewhere in the room. "... Whatever.. Just hurry up..." Haruka retorted so lightly, it sounded more like a fascinated sigh than the gripe that it was. Entirely comfortable now, Rin couldn't contain the spreading grin his jagged teeth gave off. He even started to whistle. As he lathered himself, Haruka's entire focus found its way back along the male adjacent to him by only a few feet. With Rin's attention occupied, Haruka shamelessly observed his friend. Seeing the spray from the shower-head beading through Rin's hair made something in Haruka's chest tighten. His fingers curled into light fists and his lips became moistened by a flash of tongue. In that moment, a strong desire manifested in him to become the very element that pulsed through those tresses and scavenged down that chiseled frame.

"..." An airy sound fell from him becoming so immersed in his sudden fantasy, but Rin took it as a sign of impatience, "I'm coming, all right? Just wait a second and let me rinse my hair one more time... All right." He gave his head one good shake and instinctively raked a hand through it before turning in Haruka's direction, "Scoot over."

"You should have enough room. Sit across from me," Haruka advised, not taking his eyes off of the ones that remained in his the entire time Rin approached the tub. He made a face at Haruka's offer while he dipped his hand in to test the temperature first, "Where else am I going to sit? There's no other spot."

There was actually, and Haruka only realized that it was between his own legs until after Rin got in. A large orbit of ripples swayed back and forth between the two of them as Rin situated himself into some type of gratification. Why did Haruka have to have such a small tub, anyway?

"Sorry," Haruka muttered, all of a sudden.

"Hmm? For what?" Rin questioned, bringing his knees to his chest and crowning his arms atop it. Haruka stared straight at him for a while, then gave a rapid glance down, "That it's so small. Sorry."

"HUUUUUUHHH?! WHAT ARE YOU TRYIN' TO SAY?! WANNA PICK A FIGHT, HARU?!" he roared, the sudden movement of his body sending watery projectiles in Haruka's direction. The confused boy blinked and did nothing as the "attack" slapped across his chest, settled back into its volume, then stilled around his torso. "But...you just said it was tiny."

"WHAT?!" Rin roared, forcing himself to his knees and slamming both hands on opposite sides of the porcelain, as well as of Haruka, "If you have something to say, then SAY IT, HARU!"

" 'Why does Haru have to have such a small tub, anyway?!' Sound familiar?" the accused returned, heightening his voice by a small margin. Only with Rin did his voice loosen from its flat mold and gain liveliness, "What did you think I was talking about?!"

"..." Silence itself was far more than anything Rin could have quipped with, right now. He had obviously gotten the wrong message, and now felt like quite the fool. Haruka was talking about the tub the entire time and not his- Humbly, he eased back into the waters and adverted his eyes, "Oh. Y-yeah. It's a pretty tight fit in here..."

"Sorry." Haruka meant it in reference to the lack of space, rather than as a cushion for Rin's mistake.

"How can you stand it, anyway?"

"It's water. I need it as much as this bathroom needs me."

Rin's eyes narrowed as if he were trying to decode some type of hidden meaning in Haruka's cryptic statement, but met with confusion instead, "That doesn't make any sense, Haru! You're the one who always goes ballistic over water—wanting to be in and feel it all the time...!"

"Isn't that normal?"

"Wha—no, it isn't normal! You don't see me stripping each time I'm near it!"

"But you strip when you see me. And we both wear our swimsuits under our clothes," Haruka insisted. While the first statement could easily be taken out of context, in Haruka's own bizarre way, he was able to mask the erotic with near innocence far smoother than Nagisa's looks suggested he could.

"..." Rin could feel his new frown intensify alongside the warming of his ears. It did not have to be said like that! "We're not dating, Haru," he murmured solemnly under his breath before raising his voice to a more audible level, "You shouldn't want to be around or in any kind of water at the drop of a hat."

"Is that bad...?" Haruka waded in disbelief and puzzlement, yet it was unclear towards which referred subject that he was relating to. Somehow, the significance of this soared right over Rin's head, "In any case, Haru, I suppose we should just relax for now..."

"... ...Yeah..." Haruka agreed softly in a faraway tone. Then, the shade of his words turned playful. Without noticing, he started to offer himself eagerly in open conversation with Rin, "So, what did you get me?"

"Huh? So you finally asked me! It may not seem like much to you, but it's something that'll outdo anything you could have gotten for me easily, Haru!"

"In other words, you've set yourself up to fail, Rin." For some reason, the image of Rei adjusting his glasses popped into his mind as he spoke this.

"Hey! What's that supposed to mean!? Once you see it, I'll make you take that back!"

"Want me to eat my words, Rin?"

"I want you to do more than that!"

Haruka quirked a brow at such a bold statement, but kept his responses hushed to allow Rin to talk.

"I think getting you to grovel at my feet, and being honest with yourself at how great a guy I am, will do your body some good! You'd need the exercise!"

"Why only my body? What do you want to do with me, Rin...?" Although it was asked in a taunting manner, there was an undertone mixed within it that caused Rin's cheeks to redden before he understood all of what Haruka mentioned. Nervously, his eyes darted every which way around the room and he hugged his knees again,"W-well.. o-of course what I mean is- conceding to me means you admit that I'm better than you in something, so I have to train you to be more like me...!"

"You still didn't answer my question!"

"What?! Which question?! You asked me more than one!"

"Tell me about my present." He decided to let Rin off the hook, for now. How benevolent of him...

"Tch! See it for yourself! But mark my words, Haru! You're gonna love it! Then you'll know that only I am capable of being sweeter than you could ever be!"

"That confident, Rin? Maybe I should go out and buy you a present too..."

"HA! You CAN'T! All the shops on this side of town are closed except for a few on the harbor and two grocery stores! There's nothing in either of those that I'd like or that you could get for me anyway! HAAAHAHAHAHAAA" Rin guffawed with arms akimbo—splattering water here and there in his humorous delirium, "I WIN!"

Clearly, he had missed the depth of his own words, and again proved what a one-track mind he had with Haruka. Only one of them acquired a good laugh out of it, but Haruka hid it against his forearm. Witnessing this, Rin ceased all manner of gloating and stared at Haruka like a grounded fish. "Haru...?" His voice tenderly quavered from how delicately it delivered that beloved name, "Hey! Haru! Did you just laugh at me?!" His hand raised to move the obstacle that robbed him from such a splendor. He didn't even get to hear it. "DID YOU just LAUGH?!"

"...Maybe..."

"You NEVER laugh! Haru! Let me hear it, again...?" His tone was practically begging for Haruka to comply. He hadn't given Haruka the basket yet, and already a boon from his fantasies happened right in front of him and he couldn't properly experience it?!

"Haru!"

"No." Haruka's features were stoic and deadpan, showing no fragments of his humor just a few seconds ago.

"Haru-!" Rin almost sounded desperate.

"No. I'm not gonna laugh for you, Rin." Even though he meant it, in this instance only, he was beaming quite pleasantly.

Finally, Haruka smiled for Rin.

"..." And for the 3rd time in his life, Rin could feel his heart, and soul, be captivated and stolen away by Haruka all over again. He wasn't certain if it showed on his face or not, but he gained the need to pull Haruka to his chest and hug him. Instead, he clenched both hands into fists beneath the water as if doing were substitution for the acquisition he sought.

"And about what you got me...we'll see my reaction to that after our bath. Where did you put it?"

"In the kitchen. You'll see it when you make your mackerel..." Rin surmised quietly and glaringly divided in thought. He was still shaken by finally getting so close to hearing something he always had wished to, but choosing to deny to Haruka just how much he wanted it. On the subject of fish, his features automatically took the form of pure disgust, "Hey, why don't you cook something other than that stuff for tonight? You should have more nutrition in your diet."

" 'Tonight' …?" Haruka's eyes widened beautifully at the implications. Did that mean Rin wanted to stay with him even longer? Immediately his mind began to leaf through all the various recipes he could cook with his beloved ingredient and be unconsciously listed them off in whispers, "Mackerel sandwiches, mackerel salad, mackerel and cheese, fried mackerel and pineapple..."

Rin's nose twitched, "WHAT did I just TELL you!? Ugh! I'll stay ONLY if you make something OTHER than THAT."

"You like meat, right?"

"#$%^ straight."

"Then, I can make steak."

Relief colored Rin's features, but at the same time, he got the nagging feeling that he knew better. His tone lowered dubiously, "It's mackerel steak, isn't it..."

"... ….Yeah."

"I KNEW IT."

"But, I could buy one."

"...MEAT, you mean? Like beef?"

"Yeah. There was a sale for it the last time I checked at the market..."

"Now you're talkin'! If you need help, I'm your man, Haru."

"...Hmm..." The last 4 words appealed to him strongly while his expression did not show it. He instead appeared to be lost in contemplation someplace.

"Huh? What is it?"

"Cramped..."

"You're hopeless, you know that? You let me get in here with you, but you've got no room for yourself! Come here..." Instead of waiting for him to initiate a move, Rin touched a hand to Haruka's bicep and pulled him forward. After a bout of sloshing and getting the floor drenched, complete silence soon entered the room. All understandings and common sense were exiled in favor of the excitement only spur of the moment could bestow. When Haruka opened his eyes, the first thing that caught his attention was the opposite side of the tub empty without him in it. There was a soothing warmth along his back, in addition to Rin's arm lazing over one of his shoulders. A stealthy dryness crept into his throat and the lute of his heartstrings strummed out of tune. He had found himself seated between Rin's legs while pressed against his chest from behind. Such a position had been one that Haruka had only see lovers involved in. What possessed Rin with the brilliant idea for this crazy stunt?! Still, there was a significance that stood out above all else.

Despite he and Makoto having a close bond, whenever the taller teen tried to hug him like this, Haruka would find it uncomfortable and wriggle out of it. Even with the clingy Nagisa, who loved giving him hugs and showcases of affection and appreciation for their friendship, Haruka always wanted no part of it after the first few seconds he had to endure it. This reaction held nothing personal or begrudging against his other comrades, but it was telling. He always seemed more than willing to welcome the embraces, and advances, of Rin. His hotheaded adversary was the only person of whom Haruka never held objection towards with in terms of physical contact. In fact, whenever it occurred, it was never enough; Haruka forever craved more of it. He had never told anyone this; he was even becoming more aware of it, himself. Even as children, when his body languages suggested unease due to unfamiliarity with the gestures, he never once told his rival to stop. In all honesty, he wanted to be touched—exclusively by Rin.

Comfortably, Haruka stretched his legs outward before him and relaxed into Rin's invitation as though he were used to the arrangement they were now in. It wasn't entirely intentional, but Haruka wasn't complaining about it either. Met with dispute nor opposition, Rin tensed as he felt his face turn hot.

'Haru isn't resisting me,' he mused internally, 'Haru isn't resisting me...! ^ #^&! What do I do now?!' With his free hand he clasped it over a, rousing, suspicion between the two of them. Thankfully, there was enough room to let him to do so without much notice, if with any at all. Blushing harshly now, Rin drew in a deep breath and forced himself to sound as calm, casual and cool as his voice would permit amongst cracking, "Um...is this better?" Yet, he was fortunate enough that his vocal mishap didn't obscure Haruka's allowance of this entire, and somewhat intimate, situation.

"Yeah," he responded with an airiness that could lead one to believe there was blissfully more attached to the revealed. While truthful, it was such a terse answer that Rin wasn't quite sure of how to accept. Holding onto Haruka like this was an unbelievable thing. He had found excuses to touch him in the past – an arm around the shoulder, hand holding; but now, the predicament was far more lewd. All Rin had initially aimed for this day was to prove how he could best Haruka with gifts and make him happiest that way. It was a means to put an end to their earlier contest and to label one of them the victor, nothing more- but this occurrence had literally just been placed into his lap. Rin adored and respected Haruka–a lot–but what could he do? What thoughts would Haruka have about of him? Would he hate him if he found out Rin secretly yearned to be close like this? Heavily immersed in thought, Rin's actions were unconscious ones as he hugged Haruka a bit closer and rested his forehead against him.

"..." The shorter drew in a soft breath from the contact, and Rin soon pulled away with an apology already on his clumsy tongue, "S-sorry... ...Sorry... ...I...maybe... I guess I..."

"... It's fine," Haruka muttered without thought. Had the situation been less awkward, he would have found Rin's stammering immensely cute. Still, he felt no discomfort; he accepted all of Rin, but all certainly was not just "fine". The gravity of his own emotions erased his ignorance towards how deeply his feelings for Rin had amassed, as they grew to form, before him. Once he realized his breathing had ascended in its pace, he became aware of just how freely his body had shown its honest feelings for the one behind him.

Haruka didn't want Rin to find out– at least, not like this. Not yet.

Gradually, Haruka leaned forward, putting a little more distance betwixt them, as an indication that he were trying to exit. It was more of a signal than a blatant escape, "... ...I want to get out."

His friend winced in surprise at the behavior; all he really did was remain seated and witness his other depart from him. "Wait." The word was lost on Rin's lips as he barely located the breath to create them. As Haruka stepped one leg over the edge, Rin felt as if part of him had begun to leave, too. "Haru..."

More of his invisible pleads remained imaginary– unheard by the one they were meant for, let alone from the speaker who sent them.

"...I was going to get out soon, anyway..." Haruka added, as if doing so would soften the misunderstanding. It wasn't that he was bothered by Rin—he was uncertain to whether his other would judge him from the manifestation of his affections.

Funnily, both of them carried fear towards the same entities. Feelings. Emotions. Care. Desire.

Once Haruka stood with his back to him, something inside of Rin broke. His body moved on its own, ripping itself from the clutches of the water as all he could focus on was

"Haruka!"

To Be Continued...

Yaaaay yaaaay. Finishing this chapter took longer than expected. Finally! It can be outta mah face! I just couldn't get a feel for it for the longest time... But! At least now, it is done! I'm sure you are aware of what may come (cough) next chapter.

On a random note, this chapter's "secret word" for me to go by was "feelings". The secret word for the previous chapter, I forget but I think it was "funny". If not, "cute" or "sweet". Bah! I forget!

Night! And Early Merry Xmas.

-Mel