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like lovers are supposed to

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It starts raining again halfway to the school. Chiaki was caught up looking for the old lady's lost cat—Myanko, Nyanko, or Chiaki, whatever its name was—and then eating the dumplings she offered as reward—stuffed all of them in his mouth at once bowing his good byes—but he wasn't particularly late. Heroes arrive late anyway. With the return of rain, though, he realizes maybe no one will show. Maybe there's no need for him to keep running at top speed, his shoes crunching against the wet asphalt, splashing water that's pooled on uneven pavement. Not that a hero of justice could ever slow down—there's always a need for them after all. Still, he's aware the possibility of the others not showing is high.

And he's right, he realizes as he stands under one of the eaves of the school watching water pouring down, his fist tightly clenched around the wet fabric of the umbrella the old lady gave him before he left. Time ticks by on his wrist. He watches it leaving every time one of his poses places the underside of his left arm facing his eyes. As a child he started wearing his watch like this, so he could look at his pumped fist whenever he checked the time. He's feeling the minutes washing down with rain so he's too distracted to notice the wobbly soaking wet creature loosening up his uniform tie.

“'Bubble, bubble', I thought you might be 'here'. You like putting 'yourself' after 'others', don't you?”
“Huh?” Chiaki finally sees him, Kanata with his clothes drenched, standing in front of him, the rain falling on him in such a way it looks like it's being considerate, soft with its touch, yet running down his cheeks in streams. He is beautiful and even the rain must know, he wants to think, but can't. “Kanata, you're soaking wet! How long have you been standing there, in the rain! You'll get sick! You could die!”
“You 'know' I would 'never die' on 'you', 'bubble'. I've 'only' been here for as 'long' as you have.”
“Well,” Chiaki takes hold of Kanata's wrist with his hand, soft but tight himself, considerate too, pulls him in under the eave with him, away from the rain. They almost come to a hug, but Chiaki side steps for reasons he's unaware of. He's used to the proximity, on stage and off, their hands linking, their arms brushing together, Kanata's breath on his cheeks when he laughs so close to him, Kanata clinging tightly to him while he sleeps in his arms, and yet sometimes he still side steps, he still pulls away, like he's doing something he's not allowed to do. Like he wants something he doesn't know how to ask for. Something that's never happened to him before. Kiryu told him once Kanata had denied them being a couple. Had denied—
“I 'like' the 'rain', though, you know? 'Bathing' in 'water'”
“Of course but—”
“It was 'you' who caught a 'cold' that one 'time'... not 'me',” he calmly explains, facing Chiaki with a smile.
“Er! That was—”
“But then,” Kanata turns to watch the rain when he says this, but stands closer to Chiaki, by his side, their shoulders pressed together, soft humid warmth building up in the minimal space between them. “I'll 'dry' if I stand 'close' to the 'sun', right?”
“Ahaha, of course! But there's no sun out today, so it might be harder.”
“The 'sun' of 'Ryuusetai'.”
“More importantly, why are you here? You rarely ever show up for practice?”
“I attend 'practice' as 'much' as 'anyone'. I 'knew' you'd be 'here', even under the 'rain'. You can't 'practice' or 'run' while holding an 'open' 'umbrella' so you keep it 'closed' in your 'hand'.”
“Ah,” Chiaki's grip on the umbrella tightens. He'd been thinking of it as a plasma ray gun and hadn't opened it even once, not even while running. It would've only slowed him down.
“I thought that if anyone else did show up it'd be bad if there was no one here.”
“I 'know'. It'd be 'bad' if no one was 'here' for 'you', too.”
“Ahahaha, that's an interesting perspective, Kanata! At any rate, there's hardly anyone at school now. The basketball gym should be empty, let's go in and warm up.”
“I am 'enjoying' the 'rain' for 'now'.”
Chiaki makes a face. It's a second but Kanata smiles and Chiaki feels warmer immediately.
“I suppose I 'can' go 'inside' with 'you'.”

His hand is wet, wrapped around Chiaki's, but soft and gentle and soothing. Like summer rain.

Once in the locker room, Chiaki fetches a towel out of his gym bag, left there for the week, and rubs it on Kanata's hair while Kanata hums and 'bubbles' his appreciation, eyes closed, their faces close together. Kanata places his hands on Chiaki's once Chiaki stops the rubbing motion, and puts the towel on Chiaki's own hair.
“My 'turn' now,” he says opening his eyes. They glimmer with all the hidden depths of the unexplored sea, where the lanterns of giant fish sparkle in the darkness. If he were a lesser a man, if he were not a hero of justice, Chiaki would look away. But he faces strong intensity head on.
“There should be a heater around here, I can look for it.”
“If 'you' stay 'close' to me 'you' can 'be my heater'.”
“Ahaha, but my clothes are wet too,” less so than Kanata's, but wet regardless.
“It's 'fine', isn't it?”
They settle above a mat on the floor, side by side, again their shoulders pressing against each other, the scent of wet hair and wet clothes and floor polish enveloping them as their body heat—mostly Chiaki's—starts offering its warmth.




“It's 'nice' without the 'children' sometimes, isn't it?”
“Huh?” Chiaki realizes time has ticked by on his wrist unnoticed. Their hair, their clothes too, are drier now, and the temperature has settled on comfortable. With Kanata by his side time is never on his mind. Eternity could pass and Chiaki would find he never realized, with Kanata by him. If Kanata is by him anything is possible. Anything has been. “Ahaha, it is, it is,” he supplies quickly, rearranging his posture to make up for his left leg that's fallen asleep.
Kanata must too wish to rearrange himself, but mostly Chiaki, and he slowly but surely repositions their two bodies so that Chiaki's chest is against his back, and Kanata's resting against him, as if he were a pillow, or a soft blanket.
“It's 'good', when it's 'just us'. I suppose it will be 'like this', when we have our own 'two-person unit'. Kamen Rider 'style', yes?”

Chiaki has to be honest with himself. He didn't think Kanata would readily agree to his little plan for after graduation. At one point he'd almost not said anything about it—so preoccupied was he with the pain of having to graduate and leave everything behind and, yes that too, the idea of not seeing Kanata every day, sharing moments like this, when it's just the two of them (with or without the children present because they can create a small bubble for the two of them)—and now he has no time to wonder what would've happened if he hadn't. Even if he has all the time in the world.

“It will!” he pumps his fist and Kanata shifts. “It'll be two heroes, making everyone happy!”
Kanata snuggles in closer and sighs.
“Just like 'a soft blanket', yes.”





Chiaki can no longer hear the tapping of the rain outside. Once more he realizes the time that's passed, notices darkness has started falling upon them, graying the room they've been in for the past hours. Now would be the ideal time to leave, to escape, run back towards his own house and retire for the day. His phone shows two texts from Midori and one from Sengoku. Tetora had excused himself earlier in the day. At least they're good with checking in.

He doesn't have to say it twice before Kanata wobbles to his feet and follows out of the gym, out of the school, quietly humming, trailing close after him.
“I'll walk you home,” he tells Kanata.
“There is no 'need', I'll 'go' with 'you'.”


Raindrops start falling on them not far from the school. Chiaki stops to look up at the overcast skies and opens the umbrella above himself, extends his hand out to Kanata, signaling him to take the shelter he's being offered.
“Let's share the umbrella,” he starts, his lips wide with a big smile, “Haha, like couples do,” he says and can feel the tingling rush of bravado. He's so comfortable clinging to others and speaking his mind and yet with Kanata it feels like his words are miles ahead of his thoughts, his actions, like they've decided on what he wants before he's even set up his mind.
“No,” Kanata says and whatever it is that cracks it surely can't be Chiaki's heart or anything. He's used to this kind of dejection, haha, he's always dealing with it. “I 'like' the 'rain',” Kanata repeats.
“Ahaha I know,” Chiaki rubs the back of his head. Kanata's also always miles away, almost as if he's impossible to fathom.
“'Come' with 'me', to a 'bath house' like you wanted to, that 'time', a 'bath house' of 'rain'” Kanata says, though, taking Chiaki's hand, the one holding the umbrella, which startles Chiaki and the umbrella drops at their feet with a metallic clank, muffled by the patter of the rain against the pavement, against their skin. Their feet shuffle closer together, the umbrella a silent witness.

Kanata's fingers entwine with his, they fit perfectly. His lips taste of water—rain, and running water in the school's sinks, and vaguely salty from faraway seas, cooling breeze—they're soft and a tad too cold against his own but his fingers fit perfectly and his other hand grips his arm with certainty. So Chiaki's hand cups Kanata's face, brushes his wet hair away from his cheek, his other hand to Kanata's waist—he can almost cover it with just one hand, almost, almost.

“'This' is also 'what couples do',” Kanata's breath brushes against Chiaki's lips and skin and Chiaki laughs.
“Ahahaha, it certainly is.”