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Heart of the Ocean

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It is a very little known fact that every merfolk has a life source, the very thing that, when destroyed, destroys them as well. This life source comes from a magical stone. No merperson knew of the stone’s origins nor of its history, the stone remaining a complete mystery. Pieces of the stone can be broken off to form the merperson’s own choice of accessory. When that happens, the merperson forms a sort of contract with that accessory, where their life source has been transferred to the accessory from the stone.

It’s seen as risky, as the stone is heavily guarded and kept safe in the merfolk’s city and is much harder to demolish, whereas if the accessory gets destroyed, so will that particular merperson. Still, many merfolk choose to have personal accessories fashioned from the stone, as it gives them a sense of identity.

Nanase Haruka is one of those merpeople, having found a rather intricate gold necklace from one of the many shipwrecks and chipping off a chunk from the stone as the necklace’s centrepiece. He is very proud of it (though it doesn’t show on his face) and wears it wherever he goes.

Not that he can leave it behind, but details.

Haruka also happens to be very interested with the surface world. While he’s probably not the first merperson to think such a thing, he definitely is the first merperson who actually wants to live on land.

His friends – or that’s what they refer to themselves as; Haruka just calls them ‘acquaintances’ – always voice their displeasure and shock with Haruka’s interest, to which Haruka tunes them out. They never know that Haruka spends his spare time with his head above the water, watching the daily lives of humans. They never know that Haruka sees happiness in little children as they play on the shores, letting the waves lap at their tiny feet. They never know that Haruka wants to experience a number of things, things which could never happen underwater.

Things like running, dancing and cooking.

Yes, Haruka knows what cooking is. A few years ago, a luxury liner sank near their city, numerous treasures found in the ship. But unlike the other merfolk who took the pretty jewellery and shiny coins to add to their collections, Haruka was drawn to the cookbooks. Obviously he had no idea what certain ingredients were, like potatoes and chives and pasta, but the pictures looked so appetising he had actually drooled a little. It was then that he decided that he wanted to cook, however impossible it may be.

Haruka had shared his newfound interest with his best friend Makoto, a merman who was there with Haruka every step (figuratively speaking) of the way. His body is always bare, deciding to not follow Haruka’s foot – er, tail-steps in having his own accessory from the stone. Never once had Makoto questioned Haruka’s motives in life, and when Haruka had showed him one of the cookbooks, Makoto just smiled and said, “That’s great, Haru.”

While it may seem condescending to others, Haruka understands what Makoto means. Makoto disapproves of his dream to live above the surface, but unlike the other merfolk, he chooses to keep quiet about it, knowing how upset it would make Haruka if he were to voice it out. Instead, he encourages Haruka’s fantasies, his smile growing with every recipe Haruka shows him.

And so Nanase Haruka continues to dream about having feet, continues to dream about living on the surface, continues to dream about recreating the dishes and bringing them to life with his own hands. Oh, how that dream was just beyond his grasp, unable to be reached.

Or so he thought.

Every once in a decade, the Witch of Iwatobi would visit the little merfolk city. Despite her name, the Witch of Iwatobi is actually a kind mermaid, granting wishes to those of age. The wish can be anything the merperson desires, with no hidden catches or fine print or trade – it’s the perfect scenario. However, each merperson is granted only one wish, and if things go bad, they can never un-wish it. It has most of the merfolk wishing for the safest things, like the ability to commune with the sea creatures or the ability to swim for miles without feeling the least bit tired.

But that doesn’t deter Haruka in the least bit, as it just so happens that she’s visiting the city right now, and it also just so happens that Haruka had just reached the ripe age of one hundred and five.

And so, when news of her arrival struck Haruka’s ears, he held the cookbook tightly against his chest and swam as fast as he can to the little hut that served as her temporary home, the front already crowded with hopefuls just like Haruka.

Haruka swallows; he’s never been good with crowds. But Haruka wants his wish granted no matter what, so he takes a deep breath and swims toward the hut. As he does, his earlier conversation with Makoto trickles back into mind.

“You’re really going to do this, then?” Makoto’s voice echoes in his ears, desperation seeping in. “You’re really going to go to the surface and live there?”

“It’s all I’ve always wanted, Makoto,” Haruka had said. “You of all merpeople know that.”

“But – but your family!” Makoto had cried out.

“I have no family,” Haruka had spat bitterly; his parents have left him and his grandmother quite a while back.

While merpeople live for all eternity, certain circumstances can kill them, like destroying their life source, for example. In Haruka’s grandmother’s case, she was killed when she went looking for Haruka, back when he was younger and was playing hide and seek. Sharks had appeared out of nowhere and, after his grandmother had screamed for Haruka to swim back to the city, proceeded to devour her and her life source strapped to the end of her tail. It’s been years but Haruka still blames himself for her death.

“Your friends?”

“All of which name themselves as such; I don’t even remember what they look like.”

“… Then what about me?” Makoto had said quietly. “Do I not matter to you?”

And Haruka had softened, because he had come to realise that as much as he needs Makoto, Makoto needs him just as much. “Of course you do,” he had whispered. “You mean the world to me. You will always be first, Makoto, and that’s why I had hoped that you would give me your approval, since yours matter the most.”

Makoto had teared up and pulled Haruka into a long, tight hug. It was a while until he eventually pulled away, eyes red but a small smile plastered on his face. And it was then that Haruka knew that Makoto had given him his approval, no matter how reluctant he was.

“Oof,” Haruka utters as he accidentally collides into another body. It wasn’t a hard hit, but it was enough to bring him out of his musings. He looks up to apologise when embarrassment floods him, realising that he had bumped into the Witch of Iwatobi, who’s now smiling at him. Haruka glances around and realises all of the merpeople surrounding her earlier had left; he must have been stuck in his memory for too long.

“My child,” the Witch says, her voice young despite her elderly appearance, “what’s got your head so preoccupied?”

“Just … remembering a farewell,” Haruka mumbles, gripping the cookbook tighter. He isn’t lying; Makoto’s grip around his body felt like it was the final time they can hold each other.

“Farewell?” the Witch questions, raising an eyebrow. “Are you leaving? Is that why you’re here to see me?”

“Yes,” Haruka says, determination colouring his tone. “O Powerful Witch of Iwatobi, grant me the lifestyle I yearn, a lifestyle above water.”

“Above water?” the Witch’s surprised tone is clear. “You wish to become human? Is that it, my dear boy?”

“Yes,” Haruka immediately bows. “I beg you. Grant me that one wish.”

“Do you never wish to return here?” the Witch asks, her gaze flickering to the book in Haruka’s arms.

“I …” Haruka falters. He does, oh, how he does. No matter how much he wants to be human, the ocean is his home. He would miss it terribly. “I … I’m unsure. I want to leave yet I also want to stay.”

The Witch, much to his surprise, smiles. “You are one of a kind, young one. I have heard of one merperson too many expressing their desires to see the world above the surface. But never to live with the creatures of land.” She reaches out and pats Haruka on the head. “I am feeling very generous today, young one, as you have piqued my curiosity. And so I have decided to grant you two wishes.”

Haruka hitches in a breath, eyes blown wide with surprise. Two wishes? He’s heard of such instances, but they are extremely rare.

“One,” the Witch says, holding a finger out, “to grant you the knowledge of humans and allow you the conditions to live on land. And two,” she raises another finger, “to be able to return to your mer self whenever you touch salt water. Humans need to bathe, and I’m definitely not going to take that away from you.”

Turn back? Haruka’s heart thumps in his chest, swallowing. “Am I unable to return being a human or –”

“My dear child, my name is just a title!” the Witch cries out. “Would I be so cruel to grant you the life you want then forcibly snatch it from you when you touch the ocean?” She lightly smacks Haruka on the cheek. “You clearly do not know much about me, I see.”

“How can I, when you appear once every decade?” Haruka says with a slight smile. Inside, he’s buzzing with ecstasy. Able to live both on land and water? That would be a dream come true.

“You look excited, child,” the Witch smiles, wiggling her brows.

“You have no idea,” Haruka chuckles, his happiness too much to contain.

“Well, there is a condition,” the Witch says, her brows now knitting in worry. “I never have conditions for my wishes, except for those where my magic limits me in certain areas.”

Haruka swallows and nods. She can grant him both the lifestyle of water and of land; what can this condition be?

“Your life source,” she says, gesturing to the necklace around Haruka’s neck. “It will work above surface as it has here. I do not know where humans get their lives from, and so I cannot understand the dynamics of their lives. You have to continue keeping that safe lest you want your life to be snatched abruptly from you.”

“Of course,” Haruka says immediately. He has no intention of ever parting with his beloved necklace.

The Witch grins in satisfaction. “Excellent. I hope you don’t mind my prying, but you seem rather fond of that book, my child.”

Haruka fingers the spine of the book. “Yes, well … it is my most prized possession.”

“May I see it?” she holds a hand out.

Haruka hands it to her immediately, watching her open it and flip through the pages. She doesn’t speak for a while, and when she does, she closes the book. “Do you wish to become a chef?”

Haruka furrows his brows. “What is that?”

“Someone who cooks all kinds of foods for a living.” The Witch gives the book back. “I’ve watched humans cook during my travels, you know, and while I can’t consume their food, it looks absolutely divine.”

So that’s what it is … Haruka looks at the book, his eyes glittering as he imagines himself making delicious food … for a living.

The Witch must have read his thoughts, for she smiles a moment later. “I shall make you a chef, my child.”

Heart stuck in his throat, Haruka nods hurriedly. “Yes! Please!”

The Witch claps her hands together once. “Then let’s not waste any more time, my dear child. Close your eyes and count to three. When you open your eyes, you will be on the shore, along with your book. I cannot take you beyond water, so you will still be on water near the shore, but that will be the first and last time you will retain a human body upon contact with salt water.”

Heart now turning into a jackhammer at this point, Haruka does as told. He takes a deep breath and counts to three, expecting to feel something. Like a pull, or a shiver, or maybe even a small prick of pain. But nothing. Feeling slight doubt rise in him, Haruka reaches the count of one and hesitantly cracks his eyes open.

And fully opens them, realising that he is, in fact, sitting in the water, by the shore. It’s night time now, but he looks down and gasps, for what was once his beautiful blue tail is now a pair of human legs. He’s still naked, except for the necklace, but Haruka doesn’t care, standing up on wobbly legs – his wobbly legs – for the first time.

And promptly falling back on his ass. (He has an ass now!)

Right. Legs. They’re new so he has to get used to them. Haruka stares at them, wondering how humans stand with them. He’s seen humans walk and run, but he’s never seen their toes. Do humans walk with them apart? Do they squeeze them together? Is there a technique for walking?

He takes a deep breath and nearly chokes when he realises that he’s breathing in air. Air, and not water. He quickly touches his neck and finds the slight ribbing of his gills are gone. His skin is so smooth now, the scales gone and the webbing between his fingers non-existent.

As he’s staring at his new body, he hears a voice call out.

“Oi! Are you okay?”

Haruka instinctively looks up and sees a man dressed in dark blue running towards him. Ah. A policeman, Haruka realises with his newfound human knowledge. The red-haired police officer runs into the water, shoes and all, drawing surprise from Haruka. Humans always don’t like it when their clothes get wet, so why is he different?

“Are you okay?” the man asks again once he’s in front of Haruka. “Who are you?”

“… Haru,” Haruka mutters, not feeling like he should tell this stranger his particulars.

“Haru, huh? I was just making my rounds when I suddenly saw you out here.” The man takes a step back and inspects Haruka up to down. Haruka, suddenly feeling exposed, crosses his arms and legs. “You don’t look hurt … Can you stand?”

No, Haruka wants to say. Instead, he shakily gets to his feet. He hasn’t even lifted his butt when he feels himself falling back down.

“I see,” the man hums. “Here, let me help you up.” He reaches a hand out and Haruka takes it (after staring at it suspiciously, of course). Almost instantly, Haruka feels himself being lifted from the water. “Geez, how light are you? You’re really skinny,” the man jokes before blushing instantly. “And really naked.”

Haruka blinks before looking down himself. Oh yeah, he’s got a human penis now. He frowns slightly as he realises how differently shaped it is compared to when he was a merman. It’s thick and has a bulbous tip, while previously it tapered at the end, looking much like a tentacle. It’s also just … hanging there, something he isn’t used to as mermen penises are kept inside a pouch of their tails, below their navel. It can be brought out with this nearly invisible slit, which Haruka used to play with when he still little.

(Not that he touched himself back then – he just kept accidentally brushing his fingers against the slit, causing him to jolt every now and then. Thankfully, he became more aware of the slit and stopped absent-mindedly drifting his hands there; it was always embarrassing when those around him noticed the slight bump in between the folds.)

“Nice necklace, but fuck, where are your clothes?”

Haruka touches his life source, swallowing when he realises he doesn’t know the dangers of the human world, and that he has to be extremely cautious. “I don’t have any,” he mutters.

As the redhead curses and looks back behind him at the shore, Haruka stares at the nametag pinned to the other’s shirt. Officer Matsuoka Rin? What a pretty name.

“Well, there’s no helping it, I guess,” Officer Matsuoka says, rubbing the back of his head. “Stay here. I’ll be right back with a towel. You must be feeling cold.”

As if on cue, a gust of wind blows by, making Haruka shiver. This is … this is coldness? He’s never experienced it before. He doesn’t like it. Merpeople’s skin is special, able to adapt instantly to different temperatures, so the water’s always warm to them.

Officer Matsuoka chuckles. “I’ll be right back, okay? Can you stand on your own?”

He releases Haruka’s wrist and Haruka instantly feels his legs wobble. Officer Matsuoka catches him just as his legs give way.

“Okay, so you can’t,” Officer Matsuoka sighs. “Look, I need to get you a towel, but I can’t just escort some naked guy back to my car. So … this may sound pretty heartless, but is it okay if you sit back down in the water until I return?”

Hell yeah.

When Haruka nods, Officer Matsuoka’s face splits into a grin. Haruka gapes at the sight of those shark-like teeth, feeling a tremor run through him. Shark teeth … sharks … his grandmother. As if the sight sparked memory, the sudden image of his grandmother being devoured by sharks jumps back into mind, causing Haruka to instantly look away from the policeman’s teeth; he’s absolutely certain that his face is pale.

“Haru?” Officer Matsuoka says, his voice holding confusion.

“I’m fine,” Haruka mutters, quickly sinking back into the water.

Obviously confused, Officer Matsuoka clears his throat. “Okay. Um … I’ll just … yeah …” He hesitates for a moment longer before turning around and runs back to the shore, the splashes abruptly stopping once he’s reached land.

What was that? Haruka thinks. Just because the guy has shark teeth doesn’t mean that he’s a shark. Unless – Haruka gasps, eyes growing wide. Unless he is. Or, was. What if he actually was a shark and made a deal with a magical being, like how Haruka made a deal with the Witch of Iwatobi?

But that can’t be right, Haruka frowns. He’s never known of any sharks being half mer. In fact, there has been no records of any animal being half mer. What if Officer Matsuoka is just a normal human being … with dental problems? Or what if he’s actually the first half mer, half shark and wants to keep the secret to himself?

Either way, Haruka has to approach the situation delicately. With tact. He can do that.

When Officer Matsuoka returns with a large fluffy yellow towel, Haruka stares at him. “Nice teeth,” he says, freezing just a second later. Oh yeah, he’s the blunt type. And there’s no Makoto to clear things up for him. “I – I mean –”

To his surprise, Officer Matsuoka smiles, albeit slightly warily. “Is that why you suddenly became so quiet? Did my teeth scare you?”

Haruka swallows. Officer Matsuoka is amazing at reading people. That or he’s too used to people staring at his teeth that he had expected that kind of reaction.

“I was born with them,” Officer Matsuoka says quietly, pulling Haruka to his feet. “Well, actually, they started forming when I turned sixteen.” He unfurls the towel and wraps it around Haruka, wiping away the excess water clinging to him. “My mum said that my dad had the same thing, so I obviously got it from him. I think it’s a strictly male thing, since Gramps had it, but Gran, Mum and my sister Gou don’t have it.”

“I see …” Haruka says. Well, at least he isn’t half mer. That doesn’t mean he can freely look at them though; no doubt they’ll keep retriggering unwanted memories.

“Anyway, you must be freezing,” Officer Matsuoka says loudly, as if the previous tension was never there. “Where do you live?”

“Uh …” Haruka swallows. He had forgotten about human accommodation.

Officer Matsuoka’s brows knit together. “Is it nearby?”

“Uh …”

“Is it even in this city?”

“Uh …”

Officer Matsuoka sighs. “Is ‘uh’ the only thing you can say?” Placing both hands on his hips, he looks Haruka up and down. When their eyes meet, Officer Matsuoka narrows his slightly. “… Do you have amnesia?” he asks quietly.

Amnesia? Oh. Haruka blinks. Oh! He knows what that is. “I …” he clears his throat, “guess?”

Officer Matsuoka groans and covers his eyes with a hand. “Greeeaaaaat …” he groans. His hand slides off and returns back to his hip. “Well, I was bound to come across an amnesiac sooner or later. Come on. I’m bringing you back to the station.”

Station? Haruka thinks, even as he leans against Officer Matsuoka and tries to walk towards the shore. What kind of station is he taking me to?

“Don’t worry,” Officer Matsuoka says in a much softer voice, smiling at Haruka. “I’ll help you with your memory. I’m Officer Matsuoka Rin, but ‘Rin’s’ good.”

“Rin …” Haruka mumbles. “What a pretty name.”

To his surprise, Rin snorts in laughter. “I get that a lot.”

Haruka can’t help the tiny smile that forms on his face. Yeah … Me too.

“Let’s go,” Rin nudges Haruka.

“W-wait!” Haruka cries out, suddenly remembering about his precious cookbook. He looks down at his feet, looking around wildly when he doesn’t see it. “My book!”

“Your book?” Rin repeats. He, too, looks down and bends down when he sees something in the water. He plucks it out and wrinkles his nose when he sees that the pages are stuck together from the water. “Ugh, this thing is beyond gone. You should get another one.”

“No, please!” Haruka’s hands shoot out and he snatches the cookbook, holding it close to himself. This is the most important thing in his life, next to his life source.

Rin watches in surprise before frowning slightly. “It must really be important, huh?” he questions. “This is also the first time I’ve heard of an amnesiac forgetting their basic information but remembering about a book.”

Haruka flushes. It’s not like he could help himself! This book is precious to him.

Rin sighs and ushers Haruka to walk with him. “Baby steps, alright?” he instructs, looking down at Haruka’s feet.

But Haruka keeps wobbling, flailing about wildly. When he was still a merman, there was no such thing as balance. Water surrounded him and gravity was practically non-existent. There was no fear of falling or tripping.

Haruka frowns at his feet. Being a human is hard.

Rin chuckles and stops. “Alright, alright. I hope you don’t mind, but …” He bends down and scoops Haruka into his arms, the latter letting out a surprised yelp. “I can help you with walking, but not right now,” Rin starts walking. “It’s late and you might get hypothermia. So let’s get you warmed up, huh?”

Feeling a strange sort of heat on his face, Haruka nods. “Yeah.”

 

 

 

Rin, Haruka finds, as the redhead was driving them to the ‘station’, is very chatty. He reminds him a lot of those merfolk who wouldn’t stop bothering Haruka, who ignored them and only turned to Makoto, who could read Haruka like the back of his hand.

But Rin’s different. Unlike those merfolk, Rin has no ulterior motives. He talked because he wanted to. He pointed out things to Haruka and explained what they are and what their purpose was. (Haruka had also found out that, thanks to the Witch’s magic, he actually knows all these things, but he stays quiet, having to continue his charade of being an amnesiac.) Rin shared stories of his past and why he wanted to become a police officer. He grinned at Haruka every now and then and made sure that the heating was turned up so that Haruka, cocooned in the blanket, was warm.

Rin is very kind, and Haruka finds himself drawn towards the redhead.

Right now they’re at the police station. Haruka’s sitting in a room, this time wrapped in a bigger and much fluffier light green blanket, with a paper cup sitting on the table in front of him. He stares at the brown liquid, mesmerised with the steam curling up into the air. The cup is warm and amazing to the touch. He had wanted to splash it over himself, before Rin quickly stopped and told him that it was for drinking.

“Hot chocolate. It’s good. Trust me,” Rin had winked before leaving the room.

Haruka carefully lifts the cup to his lips, remembering that, as they passed several officers, he saw one of them blow into their cup before drinking. So he does, watching the steam disappear before reappearing a moment later. Haruka takes a sip and sighs in contentment. It’s so warm and delicious. He wishes Makoto came with him. He would like to share this with his friend, even though he knows that Makoto would be more than hesitant.

He’s ripped out of his thoughts when the door opens and a rather tall man holding something walks in, hair strikingly orange (his nametag reads ‘Chief Mikoshiba Seijuurou’), followed by another man and Rin. Haruka puts the cup down and instantly tenses, preparing himself in case they attack. The orange-haired man pulls out the chair opposite Haruka and sits down, Rin standing on his right and the dark-haired one (Haruka sees his nametag bearing the words ‘Yamazaki Sousuke’) on his left.

“Chief of Police, Mikoshiba Seijuurou,” Chief Mikoshiba says. “Haru, is it?”

Haruka holds Chief Mikoshiba’s gaze before it flickers momentarily at Rin. Rin gives him a subtle smile and nods. Haruka looks back at Chief Mikoshiba and nods slowly.

“Matsuoka here says that you’re an amnesiac?”

Again, Haruka nods.

“And yet, you seem to be strangely attached to this cookbook.” Chief Mikoshiba pulls out Haruka’s book, its cover dry yet its pages swollen from the water.

Haruka’s eyes go wide and he hitches in a breath and goes to lunge for it, but Rin’s quicker. It was as if he had anticipated his move and is by his side instantly, pushing him back down by his shoulders. Haruka looks up helplessly at Rin, who smiles back down reassuringly at him.

“I’m not accusing you of anything,” Chief Mikoshiba snorts. “I’m just curious. As Matsuoka said, this is the first time we’ve ever heard of an amnesiac who forgot about everything other than their name and one single item.”

Haruka swallows.

“We’re going to need to bring you to the hospital soon,” Chief Mikoshiba continues. “To scan your brain and see how big the damage is, and which lobe exactly is damaged. That way, we’ll know what’ll be the easiest way to start re-jogging your memory.”

Haruka’s eyes go wide. They’re going to do a brain scan on him? What if they find out that he’s not actually human? He can only hope that the Witch’s magic on him is exceptionally great so that they won’t see anything out of the ordinary.

“Maybe other scans can also help,” Officer Yamazaki speaks up for the first time. “Like fingerprints and such. Maybe even a hair sample.”

“We can give it to Nitori in forensics,” Chief Mikoshiba mutters, agreeing. “There’s bound to be a match. Matsuoka,” he barks. “There wasn’t anything else?”

“No, sir,” Rin says, hands falling from Haruka’s shoulders and standing straight. “All that Haru had on his body was that book and his necklace.”

Chief Mikoshiba’s brows furrow. “Necklace?”

“Oh, it’s covered.” Rin bends over and pulls the blanket down just enough to reveal the sparkling aquamarine-coloured stone resting in the middle of Haruka’s collarbones.

“What kind of stone is that?” Officer Yamazaki leans forward in interest.

“No idea,” Rin mutters, staring at the stone.

Haruka, feeling self-conscious, shifts, causing Rin to snap out of his trance and look at his chief. “Chief?”

Chief Mikoshiba’s brows are furrowed in concentration, his forefinger resting on his lower lip. “Would you mind if you give me the necklace?”

Instantly, Haruka covers himself up fully with the blanket and leans back as much as he could in the chair. “No. … Please.”

“I need to see if there are any places in Japan that sell similar jewellery. It may give us clues on where you live.”

Haruka shakes his head vehemently. He’d rather go back to being a merman and never come back on land than give up his life source. “No,” he hisses, narrowing his eyes.

“It’ll be better for all of us,” Officer Yamazaki folds his arms. “And it’ll be easier for you too.”

“No.”

Rin steps forward. “Haru –”

Haruka directs his glare at Rin. “I said no.”

Rin steps back, a mixture of shock and hurt on his face. Haruka immediately feels his stomach drop, but before he can apologise, Rin looks back at Chief Mikoshiba. “I’m sorry, Chief. Looks like he won’t give it up. Let’s just let him keep it, okay? It’s obviously important to him.”

Haruka stares at him, eyes wide. How could Rin understand him so well?

Chief Mikoshiba sighs but nods anyway, sliding the cookbook to Haruka. “Fine. We’ll discuss this next time. Matsuoka, your shift’s over, so you and Yamazaki better head on home.” He looks at Haruka seriously. “And you, you’re free to go, too. We’ll bring you back here when we have more questions, and when it’s time to bring you to the hospital. For now, you should recuperate.”

“Uh,” Haruka swallows. “Where do I –”

“My place!” Rin pipes in, a bright grin on his face.

“You sure about this, Rin?” Officer Yamazaki raises a brow. “We have some spare rooms here in the station.”

“You think I want him to stay in the same place he has to return to soon? I don’t think so,” Rin teases, helping Haruka up. “Besides, do you see how skinny he is? I need to feed him proper before he can even think of coming back here.”

Officer Yamazaki opens his mouth to reply when Chief Mikoshiba stands up and claps his hands together once. “If you’re going to argue, I’d rather you do it outside the station. Matsuoka, make sure he’s healthy and well-fed by the time he goes to the hospital. I want him there in two weeks.”

Rin nods, but Haruka feels uneasy on the inside.

“Good.” Chief Mikoshiba stands up. “Now get out.”

“Pfft. How warm,” Rin jokes, rolling his eyes as he turns to Haruka. “Okay, Haru. Ready to go?”

“G-go?” Haruka’s eyes wildly flicker between Rin, Chief Mikoshiba and Officer Yamazaki. “Go where?”

“Back to my place, of course,” Rin smiles. “Weren’t you listening? Now, come on. You look like you need some sleep.”

The redhead holds his hand out and Haruka stares at it. He looks around to see Chief Mikoshiba and Officer Yamazaki watching him carefully before he focuses back onto Rin’s hand. He glances up and sees that Rin’s smile is gentle and patient.

Haruka can trust him. Well, he doesn’t know why he’s hesitating now, since he had practically allowed Rin to not only carry him and bring him to his car, but to drive him all the way to the police station as well.

Rin hasn’t done anything to him. All he does is hold out his hand and wait for Haruka’s move. It’s all up to Haruka. It’s his choice.

So Haruka takes it.