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When the summer break from school rolls around, there's also a break in club activities, and Haru finds himself accepting a rare invitation from his parents to come stay with them for a while.

They're supposed to keep training over the break, but neither Gou nor Makoto make a fuss about Haru leaving. After all, Haru is the last person in the world anyone needs to worry about not keeping to his swimming.

Still, he normally wouldn't go. He's refused every invitation to go to them since they left. It comes from a sort of stubborn pride, he thinks – a pride to adhere to the reason he chose to stay in Iwatobi rather than move to Tokyo with his parents. They'd given him the choice, and he had refused because they'd done so.

Haru didn't like people leaving him. Everyone left...his grandmother, Rin, even Nagisa had gone to a different school and he hadn't seen him after the swimming club shut down. Although they had pressed for him to go with him, the very fact that there had been a choice at all had caused him to dig in his heels and refuse. He would have probably gone if they'd just told him that they were all moving, but once they gave him a choice he knew that they were okay with leaving him behind. If they were fine with leaving him, then there was every chance that they would be fine leaving him alone in Tokyo with absolutely no one left, then. The last thing he wants is to be left adrift in a sea of people he doesn't know how to swim in.

If he stayed in Iwatobi, then he'd always have Makoto. He can always find the shore when he has an anchor.

So he'd stayed, and had refused to go visit every break. Until now. This summer is different.

He chalks it up to Rin being back and then what he said after the prefectural race. Rin has upset everything. He's the typhoon that has swirled the calm waters of Haru's peaceful life, like how that real summer typhoon had forever scarred the surfaces of both Makoto's and Rin's lives. Makoto can't face the ocean without support, Rin's lost himself to competition, and now Haru has lost his sense of true peace and calm, even when he's swimming. Rin is change, has always been, and it draws Haru in, sucks him up like water vapor for the clouds, and dumps him back down in the rain, changing Haru just as efficiently as that cycle of nature. But for some reason, it's different this time. Normally Rin's changes bring a new spark of something fierce, competitive, desiring and challenging and heady and all sorts of strange feelings, but all ultimately for good. Now it's just left him feeling drained and exhausted, as if Rin hadn't breathed new life into him this time but sucked him dry of it instead.

It's all Rin's fault, he thinks. He'd wanted to see him again, but not if it meant this...this hurt. The words Rin had left him with, those sharp glass shards poking into his skin as Rin left him behind again. Doesn't care enough to think twice about it, in fact, and Haru is again reminded of how insignificant he is. The sea of reality is vast, and he is small, and to Rin doesn't need him anymore.

He thinks that maybe he would have been fine if his safe harbor had remained, if Makoto had been steady and solid for him, but Haru's not the only one Typhoon Rin's affected. Makoto's been acting weird, too. He pulls back too quickly when Rin is mentioned, looks away, doesn't try everything in his power anymore to see and care for all of Haru. Haru suddenly doesn't know everything that Makoto's thinking anymore, and it's scary. He never wanted waves in his harbor, and he doesn't know how to deal with them. The sand is eroding.

So maybe he just needs a little reset. He's not leaving Iwatobi forever, just a month in Tokyo with his parents. He'll be back, he's still in the swimming club, he's not abandoning anyone. But Rin left, and it seems to have done something for Rin, so maybe Haru will find an answer, too. A little time and space is all he needs, surely, and when he comes back the waters will be calm.

When he tells Makoto, he's obviously sincerely surprised and very confused. Makoto covers it up quickly and simply wishes Haru a good trip and to say hi to his parents for him. Haru decides to ignore how his stomach knots uncomfortably at the fact that Makoto didn't know when Makoto should know everything.

When he comes back it will be better.


He decides that he doesn't like Tokyo at all.

There are too many people, for one. Haru has never been good with people, so seeing so many is overwhelming. There's no warmth unlike Iwatobi, where people were nice and smiling even if you'd never talked to them before, so even in crowds it felt warm. Here it's just crowded and cold. The air is not as clean, the colors are not as bright, the food and fish are not as fresh, and worst of all the sound of the ocean waves can't be heard from his parent's apartment. Their absence is deafening, as well as the unfamiliar bustle of the city, and both sensations are crushing. It's been a week and he still can't sleep properly.

The only bright spot is the presence of the twenty-four hour gym and its heated pool. His parents had been kind enough to sign him up for a month, and he spends most of the day from breakfast to dinner there. If he could get away with it, he'd spent the night too. He'd probably sleep better next to the pool.

Another thing that he hates is the absence of anyone he knows. He's been separated from his parents for a while, so sometimes it feels like he's living with strangers. Their daily lives and concerns are foreign to him. There is no Makoto, or Nagisa, or Rei, Gou, not even Rin. He feels alone, like he knows no one nearby which is admittedly ridiculous because no matter how he hasn't talked to them lately, his parents are his parents.

He thought it was just homesickness, something that would pass when he got a little more used to being here, but he has the first feeling that this is truly wrong at the end of the first week.

The energy radiating off of the city stifles any cool sea breezes, and in the peak of summer Tokyo is hot and muggy. The air feels like it doesn't move at all, as used as he is to the open currents of air off the sea from his home. Even with the air conditioner going full blast, it feels stifling, so one afternoon – he'd been forbidden from the pool on weekends, since he should “at least spend actual time in our presence instead of at the pool” according to his mother – he walks to the corner store to get something to cool down. Popsicles always helped when the sun overpowered even Iwatobi, so they should help here, too.

Except, when he's standing in front of the cooler case, he comes to the crashing realization that he hasn't the foggiest what to buy, or even what he likes.

Makoto's always bought their popsicles.

He thinks it's...some sort of soda flavor. But even that's kind of useless because Makoto's always bought the type to share, and Haru's not about to eat two, he just wants one. He doesn't have any idea what sort of single-person popsicles would even be worth buying, and he's not about to text anyone just to ask about dessert treats.

He doesn't know, he's completely lost. It's times like this, when he's suddenly aware that he could lose it or doesn't have it, when he realizes how much he depends on Makoto's presence. Makoto to be there, Makoto to split a treat with him, Makoto to speak for him and dry his hair and make sure he doesn't shame himself in public even though Haru could give less of a damn about what nameless people think of him.

It's stupid to relate this to losing Makoto, because he knows that fear, how crushing it was when he'd pulled Makoto to shore and oh god his breathing was so weak, and Haru hadn't known what to do because he can't imagine a world without Makoto in it. It's silly to compare that to just being lost over popsicles, but the pulling sensation like the ground's dropped out from under his legs is almost the same.

He realizes that it feels the same because it's just a small taste of what it would be like if he'd had lost Makoto. Only it wouldn't just be popsicles.

He's suddenly feeling cold despite how hot and stifled he'd been, and a little terrified, so he grabs the first one-person popsicle labeled with soda flavor he sees and gets home as fast as he can without actually running. He sends a text to Makoto about the brands and flavors they normally get, just to make sure Makoto's there, and the feeling of relief when Makoto's return message pops up on his phone warms him back up a little. It's okay, Makoto's still with him, if not physically right now.

The popsicle he bought is disgusting, and he throws it out before he's even eaten half.


By the end of the second week he's disgusted even himself with how much he uses the pool. He suspects it's because most of the time he ends up being alone during the daytime hours he swims, the rest of society at their jobs.

Haru doesn't really like swimming alone. He might like the solitude of being submerged in the water, cutting off the sounds of the outside world, but on the opposite side he enjoyed that there was an outside world to appreciate, and that someone would always be there swimming with him. He would be by himself, but not alone. Swimming alone in the large gym pool makes him all the more aware that there isn't someone beside him. Especially not someone with bright green eyes, silky brown hair that might be a tad too green from chlorine, and long, strong limbs splicing through the water.

It makes him feel lonelier than ever to swim in that empty pool with no sound of steady backstroke splashes to intercut his own front crawl ones. Without the comforting presence of his best friend, swimming alone invites too many dark thoughts. So during the daytime hours he finds himself spending most of it pruning himself in the hot tub rather than actually swimming.

If only the swim club could see him now. Nanase Haruka, sitting here and willingly turning himself into a cooked prune in a jacuzzi instead of using the open expanse of pool water off to his left. He thinks he'd probably be committed for a mental illness.

He's not homesick, he decides. He thinks he got over the physical absence of Iwatobi okay, because he at least sleeps regular nights now. No, now he's Makoto-sick, he thinks. If Makoto were to suddenly appear and live with him in Tokyo like he had in Iwatobi, then Haru can see himself not leaving Tokyo.

It's a strange, sudden feeling, to realize that his images of home don't necessarily focus on the place but rather the people. Still, he's not all surprised. Despite his stoic personality, Haru's always been more defined by his relationships. His parents. His grandmother. Makoto. Nagisa, Rin, now Gou and Rei. The physical world has always swirled around him and he could care less, but the people in it and his bonds with them are what stay with him, so it's only logical that if his anchor was here, he too would stay.

No, he's still homesick, he decides and corrects himself from earlier. Because Makoto is his home, and he misses him. It makes sense.

Now, if only Makoto could make sense, because Haru still doesn't know what to do with the new awkwardness that had sprung up between them, no thanks to Rin.

They talk by text. The first three days or so had been an endless stream from Makoto, making sure he was all right and settling in fine and generally being his worrywart self. It had been a little relieving, to be honest, because no matter how much he outwardly protests he welcomes Makoto's attentions on the inside, because it means Makoto cares for him. It means that Haru is still important to him, so he may grumble, but he never actively pushes away or rejects the mothering. It's also a little welcome because it's Makoto's way to assure him that despite the strangeness between them, he's not going to leave Haru.

The texts from Makoto had trickled down to a more normal level by the end of the week, just generic updates on Makoto's life, reassuring Haru that Iwatobi life was the same as ever. Haru had replied back at his usual rate (read: a once-a-day summary compared to Makoto's spontaneous ramblings) but after the incident at the corner store with the popsicle, he'd found himself texting Makoto more and more, until it was more Haru spamming Makoto.

He doesn't want to admit it, but he's nervous. Just because he thinks that the texts are Makoto's way of reassuring Haru, he doesn't know, not anymore. Not since the awkwardness developed. It's a terrifying, foreign feeling to second-guess Makoto's intentions, he's never had to do so before. He shouldn't have to, and he's frustrated because he could take never swimming with Rin again, he can shoulder not swimming competitively or talking to Rin or losing the intense energy that Rin brings to make the water feel even more alive. He can face and eventually accept those things like he did when Rin left the first time, even if it hurts twice as more because it's not an unwanted absence in pursuit of goals this time around, it's a deliberate rejection, but still, Haru could eventually come to face and accept it. He can even forgive Rin for the all the hurtful words he flings around. But he can't forgive the fact that Rin's gone far enough to try to take Makoto from him too, even if it's unintentionally.

This is not the usual drive of competition between them – that was driven from the joy of swimming with an equal, and Haru didn't mind who won in the end because the happiness and thrill were the same no matter the outcome. He knows Rin is different, but to Haru their races had always been about the simple pleasure in straining for his limits, side by side with someone who loved the water as much as he.

But this. If it meant losing Makoto, if he had known that losing a single stupid race to Rin would also mean driving a wedge between Makoto and Haru, then that day he would have swam so hard that he either won or drowned trying.

Haru's never really understood the intense need to win that drives Rin and some other people, but he feels he gets it a little, now. It's not that much of a pleasant feeling, Makoto would be devastated if he'd drowned for a stupid race.

Haru frowns, huffing under his breath. His frustration with Rin and this whole mess is building, a fire that won't go out, and it's silly because he should just ask Makoto what's wrong, but he's equally scared to know the answer. Haru doesn't want to know if he himself is the problem. He doesn't know what he'd do if he was.

He needs to do something, though. Rotting in the hot tub isn't going to solve anything.

He gets out, and is mildly amused by the state of his fingers and toes. Not beautiful at all, as Rei likes to exclaim at the state of his own hands after practice, but honestly Haru's skin is pretty much in a constant state of wrinkles.

He finds his phone and sends a photo text of his toes to Makoto, because he finds the absurd amount of wrinkles kind of silly and Makoto will probably either laugh or make that confused puppy look he makes when confronted by one of Haru's odder qualities. Perhaps both at once. Most of Haru's text spam to Makoto the last week has indeed been photos, since he's not good with words and a picture is worth a thousand of them, his grandma said. A saying from overseas, apparently. So he's just been snapping photos of whatever's caught his interest and sending them to Makoto. He's had to clear out his phone memory twice so far, but Makoto's probably downloaded them all to his laptop so he doesn't care.

He feels better after sending something silly to Makoto. Putting his phone down – by now Makoto's worked out that Haru doesn't expect replies to his random pictures – Haru grabs his goggles and swim cap off the table and walks towards the pool.

He has all this energy, might as well use it to train. And if he trains hard, so hard that he can challenge Rin again and make him eat Haru's wake, then maybe he can reset everything back to how it should be. For Rin and him, as he does want to rekindle their friendship, but mostly for Makoto. Haru will fight for the bitter end if it's for Makoto.

He snaps the strap of his goggles like Rin does for a change, for a feeling of a new start. He gets into the ready position, feeling a grim determination settle in. It's not the fluttering butterflies before a race, or the fire in his chest and throat with Rin's presence pounding in his ears, but a bone-deep strength thrumming through him like ocean waves, deep and fathomless and absolutely unmovable. He wonders if this is how Rin has felt, how Rin's determination to win feels. He doesn't know, but he doesn't think so. He wouldn't have cried back then in middle school if it was. This determination won't allow time for tears. Haru feels that it will force him forward if he fails, again again, until he either does succeed or dies trying. Especially if it means he can fully understand Makoto again someday.

It's a little scary. But if it's for Makoto, he'll welcome it and the strength it gives him.

You don't know what you've gotten yourself into, Rin, he thinks with a little bit of dark satisfaction, and launches himself off the starting block.


Haru's days have evolved into a comfortable routine by the end of the third week. He's always been a creature of habit.

He trains at the pool every weekday, not only for personal bests this time but for sheer speed to beat Rin's times. He spends the time out of the water using the other gym equipment for a change as well. He doesn't trust the streets of Tokyo to jog in, but there are perfectly acceptable treadmills in the gym and he might as well make use of the facilities presented to him. At the end of the day he comes home for dinner, has a nice hot bath afterwards, and then spends time in his room until he falls asleep like now, where he is lying on his back on his bed, thumbing through his old texts.

Every day leaves him exhausted, but it's a good kind of exhaustion, the feeling of training his body well. Still, it's a little lonely, since the rest of the club is not with him to do the same. He remembers the training camp and smiles a bit – no matter the one terrifying incident, he couldn't deny that the rest of it was filled with warm memories, working with his friends towards a goal.

It hasn't really gotten easier to be separated from his friends. He misses Gou's straightforward determination and bright voice, Rei's dedication and enthusiasm for beauty, Nagisa's chipper voice and silly puns, Makoto's gentle smile and caring presence...

He tightens his grip around his phone, feeling his throat go a little tight. He really misses that last one, to be honest, and he's just so sick of this stupid space between them. He doesn't want anything to be awkward between them. He just wants to be by Makoto's side, watch his face as he smiles, look into his eyes when they're soft and kind as he watches over everyone, hear his soft voice as he talks about his day, feel his warm and surprisingly soft hands as he towels off Haru's hair and gently chides him that he's going to get a cold...he wants Makoto to be here, badly. The sudden need to see his friend is almost overwhelming. He almost wants to cry, it's so sudden and bad, and he's surprised because he hasn't cried in years.

Indeed, not since he'd become friends with Makoto. Makoto cried enough for the both of them, so Haru hadn't needed to shed tears since then. Not when his parents left, not when Rin left, not even when his grandmother died...he could just lean into Makoto's arms and let Makoto do all the outer emotions while he mourned on the inside, and they soaked up each other's warmth.

They'd always been like that. Haru was the outer strength, Makoto was the inner. He never understand while some people call Makoto “weak-hearted”, because while he's wishy-washy and a scaredy-cat, there's a type of strength inside Makoto that is unshakeable. Makoto's heart is anything but weak. It's supported both him and Haru for all these years, after all.

Haru wants to see him right now, so badly.

But Makoto's hours away, and he can't. He can't do any of the things he wants to with Makoto.

Well, except for one thing. He can't see him, or touch him, but he can hear him.

He goes to his contact list, finding Makoto's number with ease as he presses the nearly-unused call button and holds the phone to his ear.

It rings once, twice, before it picks up. “Haru? Is everything okay?”

Makoto's voice is soft, sounding a little tired since it is pretty late at night but happy because Haru's calling, but also a little worried because Haru never calls anyone. Haru suddenly doesn't know why, because he wants to hear Makoto's voice forever, now that he'd been deprived of it. It also has a hint of the thrice-damned hesitance that has plagued them since the prefecturals. It's more tolerable now, though, because Haru is determined to do something about it.

“Nothing's wrong.” Not now. “What are you doing?”

“Ummn...some reading for summer classwork. Nothing too important though.” A pause, and Haru can envision Makoto biting his lip like he always does when trying to muddle through Haru's random oddities. The image brings a small smile to Haru's face, and he finds he can't get it off. “...How are your parents? Are you having fun over there?”

“They're fine. Mom won't buy enough mackerel, but it's kind of okay since she won't go to a fish market to get it fresh so what she does get doesn't taste right. There's nothing in the house to do really, so I've been training in the gym all day lately.” Haru's not one for words usually, trying to find the quickest and most succinct way to respond since he can't think of more to say, but for some reason words are almost tumbling out of him now. He wants to keep talking, to find a way to keep hearing Makoto's voice, keep him responding. “How is everyone over there? Anything with the club?”

Makoto laughs slightly, and Haru rolls onto his side, hugging his pillow to his chest as his smile widens slightly. He missed that sound too, and hearing it after so long sends a foreign feeling through him, like he's made of soda bubbles. “Everyone's fine, although Ren caught a cold and Ran's being awful about it, alternately calling him germy and disgusting and to not get near her, then crying to me that she can't sleep in the same room as him and she's lonely. The club is fine, we had a casual meeting the other day. Nagisa ate about three-fourths of the pizza by himself, it was a little horrifying. Ah, right! Kou-chan says that we'll be going back into formal practice once you get back. We'll discuss the details when you do. Is that okay?”

“Yeah, that's okay.” Haru closes his eyes and lets out his breath in a little rush, every muscle feeling like it's melting into the mattress. He hadn't known how wound up he'd been all this time until Makoto's soothing voice melted it away. “Hey, Makoto.”

“What is it?”

“I'm going to train harder from now on. I'm going to beat Rin no matter what it takes.” Haru murmurs softly, and he can hear Makoto's breath hitch slightly. Yes, it's something about Rin, something about Rin and Haru together and Haru's drive to compete with Rin that's causing uneasiness in Makoto. Now that he knows what's causing it, Haru feels a placid calm descend over him. Now that he knows the problem, he can fix it. “Once I do, I won't race him anymore. I need to catch up, to reset everything. Then I can be free of him. I won't need him anymore once I've done that.”

There is a long pause, seconds passing before Makoto breathes in slightly. Haru can feel the surprise and the uncertainity practically over the phone. “Haru...are...are you sure? I....I know that Rin's important to you, so you shouldn't just say things like that...”

“No, I've decided. He was the one who started all of this. I'll finish it. And then...” Haru takes a breath, because for some reason he feels embarrassed about admitting this next bit. He doesn't know why, Makoto's already said it to him. It's useless without Makoto. “....And then I can go back to swimming with you. I don't need to swim with Rin, but I need you there.”

Another long silence, Makoto doesn't even seem to be breathing. “Ha...Haru....”

Haru licks his lips, as suddenly the knot in his throat is back and it's drier than ever. He knows what he's said is important, although not quite how. He just knows that he meant what he said. He needs Makoto with him. Not just in swimming, but in his life by his side.

“H-Hey....Haru...” Makoto starts again, and his voice is a little strange. Hesitate, and shy, which is weird since Makoto hasn't been shy with Haru in years, but it's also thick and layered with an emotion Haru can't name, but it makes his chest tighten and heart suddenly skip in anticipation. He's never heard this voice from Makoto before, from anyone. Maybe a little bit from Rin, but Rin's didn't affect him like this. “I...I need to tell you. Wanted to tell you...f-for a long time, but you...and R-Rin were...I couldn't. I felt h-helpless. But...but we've been apart for a couple weeks, and I t-talked to Kou-chan and she said some things...s-so I should say it. So y-you know. What I m-meant about swimming, when we were stranded on that beach. I don't...I don't know if you mean the same thing, Haru, so I have to say it.”

Makoto pauses, takes a deep breath, and Haru finds his free hand fisting into his pillow as he can imagine Makoto gathering his courage, that inner strength rarely seen.

“I...I love you. Haru.”

Haru suddenly can't breathe. The world just drops away, leaving just him and the vague sensation of the pillow he's holding and the heat of the phone pressed against his cheek, almost too hot to keep it there.

He doesn't have to ask, doesn't have to confirm just what kind of love because he knows Makoto. He knows Makoto's always loved him as a friend, as almost a part of his family. So to say this means that it's a love different from that. And since it's not friends or family, that only leaves one choice.

His thoughts crash into each other like waves, loud but he can't make any sense of them. He vaguely hears Makoto babble something about talking to him later and how it's late and he really needs to go now, and Haru is vaguely aware of him babbling out a goodbye and hanging up, obviously embarrassed and having used up all his courage on telling Haru. On telling him that he loved him.

Makoto loved him.

Oh. Oh.

Suddenly everything makes sense.


Haru throws himself into training for his remaining week in Tokyo. He swims until near exhaustion, which is bad, but sheer exhaustion is the only thing that distracts him currently. Swimming itself won't clear his head like it usually does, because his mind replays those words over and over in the white noise of the water, or he keeps envisioning Makoto swimming next to him, and that's almost painfully confusing and lonely.

He's never known he was capable of all the emotions swirling around inside of him when he thinks of Makoto now. He'd never thought that Makoto would be the one to provoke them, either. Rin's always been the catalyst for his emotions before, was even the catalyst to start this whole month-long mess, and Haru had always kind of vaguely believed that it would never change. Rin would be the crashing waves that swirled and churned Haru into something new, while Makoto was the gentle beach cove that supported him and embraced him in security to rest.

But now he hasn't even thought about Rin or beating Rin all week, it's all just been Makoto, causing feelings to swirl around and bump each other inside him, inciting a flurry of confusion that Rin could never achieve. He always knew what to do with the feelings Rin caused. He doesn't know what to do with these new ones from Makoto.

For the first part of the week he's actually more scared than anything. He almost wishes he could delay going back. Not because he doesn't want to – Iwatobi is still his home because Makoto's there, and no matter what emotions he causes Haru still wants to see him – but because he just has no idea what to do when he sees Makoto face to face again. He doesn't know what to say, how to look. He can't even put names to most of the things he's feeling. So he doesn't know how to face Makoto, and that's terrifying because he's never not known how.

So he swims until he drops so he just won't think.

Thursday comes with a revelation, however.

Makoto hadn't called or texted since their fateful little talk last weekend, and Haru hasn't returned the favor either. He didn't even have any pictures to send, nothing caught his eye as he was too distracted by Makoto and the feelings. So it's a bit of a surprise when, that evening as he collapses onto his bed dead tired and half-heartedly checks his phone, he finds a text from Makoto. There's no words, it's just a picture of Makoto and the rest of the swim club. Nagisa is filling up most of the frame, Rei is trying to pull him back, Gou is giggling into her hand, and there's Makoto, holding up the phone to get everyone in the shot with a gentle smile on his face, eyes looking straight into the lens and thus straight into Haru's own eyes as he looks at the photo.

It's easy, with all his long years of practice, to read the emotions on Makoto's face. There's a bit of hesitance and fear, since Makoto doesn't know how Haru's handled his confession yet and it's undoubtedly causing him a lot of worry, but there's also a soft happiness. It's like a weight was lifted off his shoulders, somehow. His eyes seemed lighter, had they always been such a shade of green? Haru can't imagine how long Makoto has held these feelings, what amounts of equal trepidation and relief it must be to get it out into the open and not hoard it away anymore. And, underneath it all, he just sees Makoto. That gentle smile and soft expression that Haru hadn't named before, had merely thought of just as “Makoto” in his mind, but now he realizes that that expression is love. It's always been there, Haru just hadn't seen it.

Looking at the photo, it's like the world is back in focus. Like a camera finally adjusting it's autofocus properly and everything is sudden clean and clear and right again, and Haru suddenly realizes. With a sigh like he's slipped into the water after a perfect dive, the serenity and focus returning, Haru simply knows now.

He loves Makoto.

The idea embraces him like water, a cool tingle down every inch of his body and he curls his toes. The confusion and anxiety is gone, replaced by simple clarity, and he realizes now that Makoto isn't his earth, not anymore, earth is family and friends and safety. Makoto is air. He needs Makoto to live, to breathe, he's only realized how much after he's been deprived of it.

Flipping his phone over, and he brings up the camera and holds it above himself, using his free arm to hug his pillow to his chest as he attempts to take a decent photo. His arms are cooked spaghetti after his exhaustive swimming, so it takes a few tries to get one that's not blurry, but he keeps at it, staring with focus at the lens, trying to convey everything he has felt up until now into the pixels of the picture.

He sends the good pic he gets to Makoto. Makoto will be able to understand, he always has.

He rolls over and prepares to go to sleep. No reply is needed, and indeed until he goes home there is no more texts and phone calls between them. But the silence is as comfortable as walking home shoulder to shoulder, with no words needed.


Unlike the beginning of the week which went too fast, up until Saturday the days crawl, and by the time it rolls around Haru can barely stand actually having a proper sendoff from his family. Ever since he wakes up at dawn he just counts hours until he's home with Makoto again.

His parents ask him if he wants to stay longer, ask him if he's reconsidered living with them. He turns them down, hoping he doesn't sound too short with them but knows he does anyways because he sounds too short with everyone. He just wants to get back to Makoto.

His mom grills mackerel for breakfast, this time from a proper market instead of frozen from a store, but it's only later that he realizes this because he hadn't tasted it at all, just shoveled down the food in preparation to leave. Everything is too slow, takes too long, and he is actually tapping a foot with impatience when he's finally at the train station, waiting for the bullet train to pull in.

“Slow” is not an adjective that can be applied to bullet trains, but Haru finds himself thinking that even this isn't fast enough. Getting to Iwatobi seems to take forever.

Finally the expanse of sparkling blue ocean comes into view, the small seaside city nestled against it, still a distance away. He has to switch to the local train, which is even slower, and it's another thirty minutes or so. Haru has never understood Nagisa's need to fidget until now, he's seriously contemplating bouncing in his seat to make the train go faster.

The train finally creaks into the station, stopping with a puff and faint screech of the brakes, and Haru grabs his bags and is out the door as soon as his body fits through the widening gap. He trots out of the small platform since running is still too childish no matter how much he wants to, and he descends the three steps from the platform and looks up and –

His breath catches and is caught in green.

He suddenly freezes, just absorbed in seeing Makoto, raking his eyes over the other teen, every color seems suddenly more vivid and pronounced. The exact shade of his sandy hair, a normal brown that perhaps has had a bit too much pool water to ever get rid of that green tint, soft tan skin because Makoto was good about using lotion to combat chlorine dryness, those green, green eyes that Haru could call a ton of colors like grass or emerald or soft baby-new leaves of spring but they all pale because Makoto's eyes are far more beautiful to look at than any of those things could ever be. He doesn't think he could ever get his paints to mix into the right shades but suddenly he feels like he needs to spend his life trying, if to capture them only once.

He's a little surprised at himself. He didn't think he possessed such passion.

Then he's walking, running, because he needs to be with Makoto, to touch him, feel him, re-memorize the feel of those hands and broad chest and strong arms and needs to learn new parts he hasn't touched yet that's he's spent the last two nights going crazy over the idea of doing so.

He doesn't bother considering that they're in public when he throws his arms around Makoto, burying into his chest and feeling all the warmth, the solidness that he's missed this last month, sucks in a breath because it's like water onto parched sand. He doesn't care if anyone sees him hug Makoto tightly, fist his hands into the back of his shirt because Haru knows what he needs, and he knows he has a right to what he needs, so he'll get into water when he needs to because he needs water and he'll hug Makoto and stretch up to desperately press his lips against Makoto's like he is right now whenever he needs to because he needs Makoto. Makoto is his air and his water-on-land and his home and his anchor and he can't even describe everything Makoto is to him. Haru just accepts that Makoto is everything he needs and that's that.

Makoto's lips are warm, and soft because he actually bothers with chapstick unlike Haru, and pliant in his surprise, a little muffled “mmf!” coming out as Makoto was unprepared to be passionately kissed in front of the train station.

He adjusts though, because he knows Haru and always adjusts for him, and soon he's kissing Haru back, wrapping him up in his arms, one hand folding into Haru's hand with a soft little sound. They kiss for what seems like forever, warmth that spreads like liquid fire from Haru's lips into his chest, until even Haru's lung capacity runs out and he doesn't know if he's seeing stars from passion or oxygen deprivation.

They part with a gasp, a tiny thread of shiny saliva trails between them before it finally breaks and it's a little obscene in a way that has Haru flushing a bit and filing it away to study more in-depth later. Preferably in a bedroom with no one else to see.

Makoto holds him close, and they just breath in time like that for a while, simply drinking in each other's presence. The comfort is back, the unshakeable certainy of each other's feelings, only now it's warmer with a sort of passion he hadn't known he was missing up until now, a need to touch and feel and have and love.

Makoto's foam-soft lips gently press against Haru's forehead, and Haru closes his eyes in response. Yes, he could live forever like this. Like this, he can strive to beat Rin and when he does it will be a true break because he doesn't need Rin as his driving force anymore, he has Makoto, Makoto who gives him both the vast ocean of passion and the stable port of home, because freedom is tiring when there's nowhere to return to.

“Welcome home,” Makoto murmurs softly, and Haruka rests his head on Makoto's chest and is free.