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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.

Chapter Text

Even though Rin has a license, he doesn’t have a car. The station’s only about ten minutes away from his home so he just walks there daily. It’s great exercise, he had told Haruka. But just for tonight, Chief Mikoshiba gave him special permission to use his assigned police car and drive Haruka back to his place, since Haruka looked like he wouldn’t stop shivering and Rin didn’t want to force him to walk when he still couldn’t.

“Here,” Rin says, handing Haruka a shirt and a pair of knee-length shorts. He had to carry Haruka up the stairs because the elevator was taking too damn long, but he didn’t mind one bit.

Haruka, now sprawled ungracefully on the sofa (looks like he needs help with sitting down as well) and still wrapped up in the blanket, takes both articles of clothing with slight hesitation. “Thanks,” he mutters. He now knows what clothes are, he just isn’t sure whether he’s allowed to accept Rin’s so easily.

“Do you need help with those?” Rin asks, brows furrowed in concern.

Haruka glances momentarily at him before holding the shirt out with both index fingers and thumbs, letting it unravel fully. He stares at it uncertainly. “I think I can manage,” he tells Rin, focus still on the shirt.

“You’re not even holding it properly,” Rin snorts. “Here, let me just …” He takes the shirt from Haruka and rests a hand on the blanket. “Do you mind if I pull this off?” he asks, slow and careful. “I need to dress you up.”

Haruka tenses slightly but nods anyway.

Rin does so quickly, but only pulls the blanket down to Haruka’s waist. He doesn’t take one glance at Haruka’s exposed torso and sets to ‘preparing’ the shirt for him.

“This is where your head goes,” Rin explains, pointing at a rather large hole. “And your arms go in here.”

Haruka nods along. He knows each part of the shirt but he stays quiet. He doesn’t want Rin to suspect anything about him. So he just shuts up and listens and lifts his arms as instructed, closing his eyes when Rin pulls the shirt down until it’s snug around his body.

He had forgotten about his life source, so he jolts when one of Rin’s fingernails clack slightly against the stone. Pain pricks his nerves and Haruka tries not to show it on his face. That’s … new. He’s never felt pain from his life source before.

Before he can mull over it any longer, Rin straightens up. “Alright, next up,” he unfolds the pair of shorts, thankfully having not noticed Haruka’s momentary look of discomfort, “pants. Um … I kinda need you to stand up for this.”

Haruka isn’t stupid. He knows what’s going to happen. It’s just that, well, it’s still hard for him to stay balance on two legs for one thing. And his nudity can be taken into account. Well, Haruka doesn’t mind, since technically merpeople are naked all the time, but Rin had nearly exploded from the heat to his face when he first saw Haruka’s dick, and Haruka doesn’t want to embarrass him any further.

“How do I cover myself then?”

Rin goes red (as expected) and scratches the back of his head. “Uh … You don’t? I mean, you can, like, you wrap the blanket around your waist, but you can’t even stand up properly, so … you …” He trails off and his eyes go wide as if it dawns on him.

It takes a moment for Haruka to get it too. “Does that mean I have to lean on you?”

Rin covers his face with both hands, looking much like he’s rather be somewhere else. “… Yes,” he eventually says, voice quiet yet high-pitched.

Haruka snorts in amusement. “Alright. Help me up, Officer Matsuoka.”

Rin peeks at Haruka through his fingers, wearing a look of disbelief. “How are you not embarrassed? You’re the one who’s gonna be showing me everything!”

“You already saw me naked the first time,” Haruka points out. “And what’s there to be embarrassed about? It’s not like we don’t have the same thing.”

“Ugh, being indifferent about it is even worse,” Rin groans, though he drops his hands and grabs Haruka’s outstretched ones. He pulls Haruka to his feet and the blanket plops to the ground, a very red-faced Rin determinedly not looking at Haruka below the neck.

It’s rather adorable, Haruka supposes. If it isn’t for the fact that his legs are already giving out.

“Oh, shit,” Rin curses when Haruka falls into him. He sighs and manoeuvres Haruka so that his back is resting against Rin’s front. Rin bunches the shorts up and starts to bend forward. “Hold on to my back,” he instructs, his professionalism breaking through his embarrassment.

Rin bends down and Haruka’s legs instantly wobble. He grabs onto the back of Rin’s uniform, placing a bit of pressure on it when he feels himself losing his balance even more. Haruka looks down and sees Rin spreading one of the holes.

“Bend your right knee and put your foot through here,” Rin says, and it takes Haruka some time, but he eventually manages to lift his foot an inch from the floor. Rin helps guiding his foot in and does the same with the other, pulling the shorts up to Haruka’s hips as he stands up.

“See?” Rin grins, holding Haruka tightly on the hip. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

“Says the person whose face could rival the colour of his hair just moments earlier.”

“Shut up!” Rin snaps, already blushing again. “It’s not like I make it a habit to see other dudes’ dicks, alright?”

Confused with his statement, Haruka looks up at Rin. “Can it be a habit?”

Rin splutters. “What –”

“I would very much like to see yours.” While Haruka knows that what he’s doing is pushing the boundaries of personal space, he wants to know what it looks like on other men. He was taught that merman penises can vary and he wants to know if it’s the same in the human world.

Rin colours and he hurriedly dumps Haruka back on the couch, using Haruka’s disability of balance to his advantage. “I don’t think so,” he steps away.

Haruka glares at Rin and moves into a lunging position. He can’t stand, but pouncing works just well with only the usage of his arms. “Don’t make me force you.”

“YOU COME ANY CLOSER AND I’LL SCREAM!” Rin shouts.

“I haven’t even moved and you’re already doing it.”

Snatching up a throw pillow, Rin puts it in front of himself as a form of shield. “Don’t get smart with me, you pervert!”

“I just want to know!” Haruka huffs.

Rin furrows his brows together in confusion and suspicion. “Know what?”

“What it looks like on other men,” Haruka frowns. “Isn’t it different for every male?”

Rin slowly lowers the pillow now that he knows that Haruka’s intentions are innocent. Well, as innocent as they can be. “I guess … I mean, it differs, but guys can have the same kind of dick and –” He cuts himself off and colours even more. “Wait, why do you even know that?!” he nearly yells, hiking the pillow up again.

Haruka shrugs. “Things should be able to come to me every now and then, right?”

Rin stares. “What kind of an amnesiac are you?”

The determined glint appears in Haruka’s eyes again. “The kind who’s going to see your penis.”

And then he pounces.

Haru!” Rin shrieks.

 

 

 

Rin’s curled up in his bathtub, face a healthy shade of red as he remembers how Haruka was somehow able to unbuckle his belt and yank his pants off. It was only due to his sheer panic that Rin managed to kick Haruka off when he felt his fingers against the waistband of his boxers.

He presses his hands against his face and groans. Great. The one guy who I decided to take responsibility of and he just has to be a pervert.

Rin sighs and lets his hands slide off and plop into the water, his eyes staring at the ripples left behind. Well, he supposes it’s not all that bad. After all, Haruka’s actually rather nice to be around with. He always has this look of disinterest on him, as if he’s constantly bored with the world, but whenever he looks at Rin, he looks captivated, as if he’s genuinely intrigued with whatever Rin is saying.

There’s also a second, smaller expression hiding behind his eyes, but Rin can never tell what it is, because it disappears almost as quickly as it comes.

Haruka also doesn’t talk much, making him creepily similar to Sousuke, but that’s fine in Rin’s book. He’s also insanely attractive. Too attractive. Maybe that’s why he volunteered to take care of Haruka in the first place. And despite his … earlier actions, Haruka has the innocence of a child. It makes Rin want to baby him.

Rin sighs again. After kicking Haruka off, he had quickly scrambled for the bathroom, leaving Haruka on the floor. He feels guilty for doing that, but Haruka was asking for it! He could’ve just let his intentions be known then Rin would’ve helped him see other guys’ dicks.

Rin may have a couple of DVDs lying around which may help Haruka. But then it can also lead to Haruka being even more inquisitive and it would embarrass him even more. Possible questions spring to mind, like “Rin, what’s the man doing with the woman?” and “Rin, the woman’s crying; is she hurt?” and even “Rin, the man’s moving really fast and really hard – are you sure she isn’t hurt?”, and god, it would make Haruka seem more like a child.

Now that Rin thinks about it, porn may not be the wisest choice in this situation. But no way in hell would he bring Haruka to some gay bar or strip club. Not only would Captain Mikoshiba have his ass, but he’s supposed to help Haruka re-jog his memory. A strip club isn’t the best place for that.

Rin mulls over it a moment later before pulling himself out of the bathtub. No way in all seven layers of hell is he going to show Haruka another man’s penis (a splash of red bursts on Rin’s face – why is that the thing Haruka has to be curious with?). He’ll just have to tactfully avoid mentioning it and move to another topic. Yeah. He can do that.

Drying his body with a towel and snatching up the smaller one for his hair, Rin unplugs the bathtub and runs the towel through his hair. When he deems his hair dry enough, he wraps the bigger towel around his waist and opens the door –

SLAM!

– only to find himself flung backwards, crashing painfully on to the tiled floor. “Ow …” Rin groans, cracking an eye open to see what had happened. Haruka’s on him, his eyes impossibly wide as he stares at Rin, panting slightly like he had just sprinted. “What the hell?” Rin hisses. “What are you doing?”

Haruka looks at Rin as if snapping out of a daze, before looking away and biting his lower lip.

Suspicion washes over Rin and he starts to hiss like a feral cat. “Are you trying to look at my dick?!”

Haruka’s face snaps back to face Rin. “N-no! I wasn’t!” he hastily says. “I mean …” His eyes trickle down Rin’s towel, “now I am …”

Rin’s hand shoots down to his towel and grips it tightly, just in case Haruka does something stupid. Like fling his towel off. Which in turn will make Rin do something stupid. Like kick Haruka in the face. “Then what were you doing?” he asks, giving Haruka the benefit of the doubt.

A light pink spills on Haruka’s cheeks. “I was … trying to learn how to walk,” he mumbles.

And god damn it if Rin doesn’t feel himself soften from that. “You idiot,” he sighs, sitting up and pushing Haruka back with him. “You can’t even stand. Couldn’t you at least wait for me to finish bathing?”

Haruka slumps and hunches his shoulders up. “I thought you were mad, so …”

Rin had felt that he would have won first place in ‘Biggest Asshat’ more than once in his life, but he had never felt the need to actually accept the damn trophy until now. “I was just embarrassed,” Rin mutters, looking away. “I mean, letting a total stranger see your …” he swallows, “downstairs area is very personal. I would’ve done that to anybody.”

He looks back at Haruka and lays a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t mad. I promise.”

Haruka looks Rin in the eye and nods slightly. “Okay.”

Thinking (and praying) that Haruka had accepted his apology, Rin claps him on the shoulder. “Okay, get off me. I need to dry off properly and change. Be ready in five minutes.”

“Where am I going?” Haruka asks, brows furrowed in concentration as Rin helps him up.

We,” Rin corrects, half-carrying half-dragging Haruka back to the sofa, “are going out. I’m going to help you learn how to walk.”

Haruka’s eyes sparkle and he looks as if Rin had just given him his porn stash or something (Rin needs to hide them soon).

“Stay right here,” Rin enunciates, even pointing at the sofa like Haruka’s a dog. “I’ll be right back.” When Haruka doesn’t move, Rin sighs inaudibly and heads for his room.

 

 

 

The door closes and Haruka has this sudden urge to just … do something. He’s so excited that Rin’s going to help him learn how to walk that he wants to do something. Anything, really. But he can’t really move around and he’s in the home of another person, so he just picks up the nearest cushion and punches it half-heartedly.

His life source clinks with his movements and he looks down at it, swallowing as he remembers the pain that assaulted him earlier on.

Haruka wasn’t lying when he said that he was trying to walk. His legs were exceptionally wobbly when he stood up, and he thought that if he moved fast, the wobbling would go away. Wow, how wrong he was, especially since he nearly collided headfirst into the bathroom door and then actually into Rin. The impact of falling didn’t hurt his legs, but his chest had banged against Rin’s, resulting in his life source getting slammed in between their bodies.

And it had hurt. Haruka had never experienced such intense pain in his life. Back when he was a merman, things like accidentally pricking himself from the scales of fishes hurt his finger, and getting himself stuck between rocks hurt his tail. Pain had only come to that certain part of his body, but now he feels nothing when he slams his feet against the floor. Whatever force the stone receives, it attacks Haruka’s body as pain instead.

A simple flick to his life source shouldn’t feel like anything, since it’s just a stone. A stone which Haruka had signed a contract with, but still a stone.

He had never felt so confused in his life, and it’s not like he can ask the Witch of Iwatobi for clarification since she only comes by once a decade. The only plausible reason Haruka can come up with is that his life source is simply a lot more sensitive here then it is in the water.

Haruka sighs. If that’s the case, then he’s going to have to be extra careful.

He can’t leave his necklace behind. It’s not like it’s magically infused with him, since he can take it off. It’s just that it’ll not only feel like Haruka’s missing something, but he can’t keep an eye on it and protect it should anything happen to it. Like a book falling onto it or something.

Haruka fingers the blanket that was covering him earlier. Maybe he can keep his life source wrapped up in the blanket, since it’ll protected by the soft texture. But it’s heavy and inefficient, since if something hits the blanket, chances are his life source will get hit as well.

Just as he wants to groan, the door opens again and Rin steps out. He’s wearing a simple jacket and sweatpants, both of which look slightly too big for him. His hair’s out of the ponytail this time, framing his face prettily. Rin stands in front of Haruka and smiles at him, careful to not let his teeth show. Haruka’s heart flutters at his consideration.

“Ready to go?” he asks.

Haruka nods.

Before helping him up, Rin drops something on Haruka’s lap. Haruka picks at the item inquisitively. “What’s this?”

“A jacket,” Rin shrugs. “Looks like it’ll be brisk out tonight, and I don’t want you freezing.”

Haruka stares at it a moment longer before pulling it up and holding it out at arm’s length like he had with the shirt earlier, delicately pinching it with both this index fingers and thumbs.

“Do you –”

“I want to try putting it on myself,” Haruka says softly. “If you don’t mind.”

Rin smiles. “Sure.”

What comes after is two minutes of pure wrestling. The shirt was easy to put on, but only because it has short sleeves and Rin helped him wear it. The jacket has longer sleeves and a zipper, which had confused Haruka even though he knows how to put it on. Huh. Looks like knowing something and actually doing something are different.

Haruka manages, in the end, panting slightly and hair mussed up. He’s got the jacket on but now he wants it off. It’s too hot.

Rin chuckles and ruffles his hair. “Good job,” he praises, causing Haruka’s heart to speed up. “We have to put on shoes before we leave, though. Can’t walk outside barefoot.”

“Do I have to put them on outside?” Haruka asks, grabbing onto Rin’s arm as he pulls himself up.

“Not really?” Rin hums. “We’re in the living room, and it’s customary in Japan to take footwear off inside the house. You saw me leave my shoes by the door, right? That’s the genkan, the entryway of every home.”

Haruka nods, taking wobbly steps towards the genkan. Rin helps him along with every step, smiling encouragingly now and then. They reach the genkan, a single step with three pairs of shoes lined up neatly against it, and Rin tells Haruka to sit down. So Haruka does, watching Rin crouch in front of him and pick up a shoe.

Haruka watches how Rin plays with the laces, mesmerised by how quickly his fingers move to slip his feet in and tie the shoes up almost immediately after. Rin does the same for himself, though he just slips them on without untying the laces. Haruka almost feels a bit put out from that.

Standing up, Rin hooks his hands under Haruka’s armpits and hauls him up. “Come on.”

He helps Haruka out and locks the door behind them, Haruka’s grip on his arm iron-like as he tries to walk. If that’s what one can call dragging their feet walking. Rin’s gaze is trained on Haruka’s feet, his own pace slow and steady to match Haruka’s. They reach the elevator and Rin presses the ‘down’ button.

Haruka frowns when he sees that the elevator’s at the very top floor. Just like when Rin first brought him here. He sighs, legs already straining from standing too long. Being human’s hard.

“You can lean on me if you want to,” Rin whispers like it’s a secret, grinning at him.

But really, Haruka could have had it worse. He could’ve been found by someone who doesn’t give two shits about him, dumping him in the hospital and never returning. But no, it was Rin who found him. Rin, with that big smile and an even bigger heart.

Haruka smiles and leans against the redhead.

 

 

 

When Haruka had glanced at Rin’s watch, it showed that it was around 9:30pm. That had been roughly twenty minutes ago, and no progress has been made on Haruka’s walking.

Well, he could say that he graduated from dragging his feet to hobbling. Rin had lit up when Haruka actually managed to lift his feet from the ground, but Haruka was more than displeased. He can do better than this. Heck, he’s seen toddlers by the shore run.

The only sounds punctuating the night are the occasional cars driving by them and the grunts from Haruka. Rin gives him words of encouragement every now and then, but he’s quiet for the most part. A total one-eighty from the chatterbox when he was driving them both to the station.

He looks at Haruka from time to time, and Haruka can actually feel the weight of his gaze on him. It’s getting kind of … unbearable.

“Can you stop staring at me?” Haruka mumbles, though his eyes are focused on his own feet.

Rin chuckles. “Darn. I was hoping you wouldn’t notice.”

“How can I not when your gaze feels heavy like lead?”

“You know what lead is?” Rin raises a brow, and Haruka curses himself at his carelessness.

“It was one of the things you told me on the way to the station,” Haruka bluffs. The longer he stays on land, the more his brain supplies itself with human things and their uses. He surmises it won’t be long until he completely knows everything about the human world, maybe in about a week or two tops.

“Really?” Rin sounds confused. “I don’t remember seeing lead on the way to the station.”

“We saw construction and you talked about lead,” Haruka lies. While they did see construction, he doubts Rin would actually know that lead can be used in it.

(Another thing he realised with his newfound knowledge is that not all humans are very knowledgeable in every aspect, unless they’re either interested in general facts or their field of work or study calls for having the need to know certain things.)

“… Okay, then …” Rin says slowly, having bought Haruka’s flimsy excuse. “Hmm. I must’ve learned that from Rei …”

“So why were you looking at me?” Haruka says, seizing the opportunity to change the subject. He stops walking and looks at Rin. “Do I have something on my face?”

He reaches up to scratch at his cheek, stopping and staring at his new human hands. He’s still not used to seeing such smooth skin. It’s not that much different from his mer hands; the only difference is that it’s not webbed and ribbed, since there’s no need to have an extra grip on dry land.

“Nah,” Rin snorts. “Just wondering if you were okay with crashing over at my place.”

“I didn’t refuse, did I?” Haruka says. “And it’s not like I could go anywhere else.”

“You could stay at the station,” Rin jokes.

Haruka swallows and tightens his grip on Rin’s arm. The idea of being surrounded by a bunch of nameless men is just enough to make Haruka uncomfortable.

“Sorry,” Rin says immediately, brows furrowed in worry. “Did I say something wrong?”

Haruka shakes his head. “No. I was just thinking.”

Rin’s brows knit together even more. “About?”

Haruka smiles slightly, not looking at Rin. “About how I should thank you.”

The worry dispels from Rin’s face and he laughs. “You getting better is good enough for me.”

That spurs Haruka to try walking again. “I’ll try my best, then.”

“I don’t usually do this, you know,” Rin says a moment later. “I don’t bring people to my place in an attempt to help them heal. I usually follow Captain’s orders and either bring them to the hospital or let them stay in the station. This is the first time I’m doing this.”

“Why are you doing this with me, then?” Haruka asks, voice quiet.

Rin shrugs. “I don’t know. You’re very pretty. I feel like I want to know more about you.”

Haruka says nothing. He should’ve expected as much. After all, one reason why merpeople steer clear of humans is because of their looks. They’re very similar to sirens, but instead of leading people to their doom using their voices, they do so with their otherwise ethereal looks. Rin must have also fallen under the same spell, though he’s not reacting as strongly as Haruka had expected.

“If you don’t mind my asking,” Rin says, “but do you remember your full name? Or do you just remember ‘Haru’?”

“Haruka,” Haruka says immediately. No reason to hide it from Rin. “Nanase Haruka.”

Run hums. “‘Haruka’, huh?”

Haruka wrinkles his nose at that. “Please, just keep calling me ‘Haru’. It’s shorter and easier to pronounce.”

Rin blinks before snorting. “Sure. So you’ve got a girly name too, huh? You’d fit well with two of my other friends.”

Haruka tilts his head at Rin. “You have friends?”

“Oi, what’s that supposed to mean?” Rin growls playfully.

Haruka flushes from the implication of his words and shakes his head. Makoto would have been the one to correct Haruka’s words before misunderstandings arise, but he’s not here. Haruka has to get used to that.

“I-I’m sorry, I didn’t mean –” Haruka swallows.

Rin punches him lightly on the shoulder. “Lighten up, won’t you?” he teases. “Yeah, I have friends. The black-haired guy you saw who came in with the captain is one of them. His name’s Sousuke, and he’s been my friend since I was a kid.”

Friends since they were young. His friendship with Officer Yamazaki reminds Haruka of his own with Makoto.

“And then there’s Kisumi, a firefighter,” Rin continues. “He’s really super preppy, I’m sure you’ll like him!”

Instantly Haruka’s face darkens. ‘Super preppy’, huh? If Haruka hated that kind of personality on merpeople, he’ll definitely hate that kind of personality on humans.

“What about the ones you mentioned earlier? The ones with feminine names?”

“Nagisa and Rei, an astronaut and a scientist.” Rin smiles. “Nagisa’s coming back from another one of his explorations, so you’ll be able to meet him soon. And when Rei isn’t exploding his lab, he drops by the café near the station. So you’ll see him soon too.”

Haruka wants to inquire more, know more about Rin’s life and the people who managed to claim Rin before him (what is this sudden feeling of possessiveness?), but his chest is heaving and feels tight, and he knows that he’s too exhausted to do anything. The last time he felt this way was when he was swimming for his life back to the city, away from the sharks which had torn his grandmother to pieces.

He breaks away from Rin and leans against a wall, panting as sweat beads on his skin. Ugh, how gross. Downsides to being a human, he guesses.

“Break time?” Rin winces.

Haruka nods fervently. “Yes, please,” he gasps.

“Alright, don’t move.” Rin effortlessly scoops Haruka into his arms again, so suddenly that Haruka nearly flails and yelps, and smiles at him.

“What are you doing?” Haruka demands, feeling embarrassment flood him when the few people who are out stare at them.

“I’m taking you back to my place,” Rin says, as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “I think we’re done for today. It’s already late and I still made you push yourself to learn how to walk.”

“But I –”

“Haru,” Rin says, a soft smile on his face. “I was pretty much appointed to be your caretaker, and not even an hour had passed and already I’m making you tired as hell. You should eat something and go to sleep. We’ll continue this tomorrow.”

Haruka, feeling much like a child not getting his way, makes a pleading expression. “Rin –”

“Baby steps, Haru,” Rin chuckles, and it’s enough to silence Haruka.

Rin carries Haruka all the way back to his apartment, which isn’t that far, much to Haruka’s relief. It’s not like Haruka can walk very far, but if he had brought Rin out further than expected, then the guilt would be slamming into him like no tomorrow.

The elevator ride’s slightly awkward. The first time Haruka’s able to get in and someone just has to join them. A young man who looked slightly younger than Rin won’t stop staring, and while Haruka has his face hidden the entire time, Rin just keeps grinning. The elevator dings at the fifth floor and Rin gives the guy a nod before leaving.

Once they reach the front door, Rin puts Haruka down to fish out his key.

“I’m really sorry you had to carry me all the way back here,” Haruka murmurs. Gravity doesn’t work in the water, so carrying another merperson isn’t really tedious, but just lifting his own foot is already taxing on him; how much did Rin suffer?

“Don’t worry about it,” Rin waves his apology aside, jamming the key in the hole and turning it. “You weigh almost nothing, dude. And it’s good exercise.” He smiles at Haruka and opens the door, toeing his shoes off and kicking them in.

Being scooped into Rin’s arms for the third time that night is still unexpected for Haruka, who grabs onto Rin’s shoulders for stability instantly. But he says nothing this time, allowing Rin to carry him back to the sofa and gently setting him down.

Rin crouches in front of Haruka and unties his shoes, and all the while Haruka eyes Rin’s own perspiration. It’s slight, but it’s still there, and it warms Haruka’s heart when he realises that Rin was lying when he said that Haruka weighed almost nothing.

Before a stab of guilt hits him. He doesn’t want Rin to lie for his sake.

Both shoes now off, Rin crosses back to the genkan and dumps them there before going to the kitchen. “It’s pretty late, so you can’t eat much. I hope you don’t mind if I make you a simple PB&J.”

Haruka blinks. “‘PB&J’?” he echoes. “What’s that?”

“Peanut butter and jelly,” Rin explains, opening one of the cabinets and taking out two jars. “It’s one of the simplest sandwiches to make, which I learnt when I was in Australia. You won’t see this in Iwatobi.” He snorts and leans over, snatching a butter knife from his cutlery drawer. “It’s hard to explain, but you’ll love it once you taste it.”

Haruka’s never tasted anything from the human world, but yet, he knows. He knows what it’s supposed to taste like, and he knows how to make it, even before Rin actually started doing anything. Is this what the Witch meant when she said she’ll make him a chef? The ability to know how to create food right from the get-go? It just must have taken a while for the knowledge to settle in, since he was confused with hot chocolate in the police station.

If Haruka ever sees her again, he could kiss her.

But also not really. Who knows what she might do to him.

Haruka’s snapped out of his thoughts when Rin finishes. “Ta-dah!” Rin sings, holding up a sandwich on a plate. “This goes great with milk. I would recommend full cream, since there’s more flavour, but I’m watching my diet so all I have is low-fat.” Rin opens the refrigerator and takes out a carton of milk, filling it into a glass.

He brings both items to Haruka and sets them on the coffee table. “Eat up,” he says gently. “I gotta go prepare the bed.” And he goes back to his bedroom, leaving Haruka with his, er, dinner.

Haruka picks up the sandwich with both hands tentatively and bites into it, moaning at the taste. Yes, this is what he definitely had expected. Smooth and sweet, all at once. The milk is tasty as well, and it really complemented the sandwich.

Perhaps it was because of his hunger, or maybe it was because Haruka liked the taste. Either way, he had eaten the sandwich completely and drained the milk, his stomach satisfied for the night. That was delicious. Definitely different than the various seafood he feasted on nearly his entire life.

The door opens and Haruka perks up when Rin reappears.

“Oh, you’re done. That was quick,” Rin chuckles. “Come on. I bet you’re all full and sleepy, huh?”

Haruka nods wordlessly, allowing Rin to carry him one more time. But as Rin starts making his way back to his bedroom, a question springs into his mind. “Am I going to sleep with you?”

Rin’s face turns slightly red but he nods anyway. “Of course. My bed’s big enough for two people. Maybe even three if they all manage to squeeze in.” He smiles at Haruka. Haruka surprises himself when he finds that he wants to see Rin’s teeth. “It’ll be really cruel of me to leave you sleeping out here. Besides, it’s warm in my bed.”

Haruka wants to ask more, but he finds his eyelids drooping.

“See, how can I make you sleep outside with that look on your face?” Rin chuckles, laying Haruka on his bed. “Just sleep here. I’ll be right back – gotta put the dishes in the sink.”

It’s really soft, and Haruka finds himself nuzzling his nose into the sheets and breathing in deeply. Mmm. Peach. Merpeople sleep on whatever they fashion into a bed – Haruka’s is moss-covered rocks while Makoto’s is a large slab of stone with pillows and cushions his family had collected from sunken ships. Nothing as soft as Rin’s bed.

Something light lands on him and he jolts slightly, before relaxing when he sees that Rin had returned and draped a blanket over him.

Rin turns the light off, plunging the whole room into darkness, and slips into bed next to Haruka. He adjusts himself and smiles at the latter, who’s having trouble keeping his eyes open. “Goodnight, Haru,” Rin whispers. “Sweet dreams.”

His eyes slip shut and he looks so … peaceful. So beautiful.

Haruka restrains himself from snuggling into Rin that night.

Chapter Text

The first thing Haruka does when he rouses from sleep is stare at the pillow his head was on previously. He starts to panic, before realising and remembering that, oh yes, he’s a human now, and humans sleep on beds, so there’s nothing to worry about. As he does every morning, Haruka reaches for his neck, gently stroking his life source.

It’s still there. It’s not broken. Good.

He sits up and looks over to Rin’s side of the bed. Rin’s not there, but judging by the faint sounds he can hear behind the door, Rin’s outside. Haruka takes his time to sit up, already feeling the perspiration break out on his brow. By the time he’s manoeuvred himself so that his legs are hanging off the side of the bed, the door opens.

Rin smiles at him, wearing an apron. His hair is tied up once again and the smell of something cooking trickles into the room. Haruka swallows. “Oh, you’re up. I was gonna wake you, but never mind. Come on, I’m making breakfast. It’s an Australian one, so I hope you don’t mind.”

Haruka manages a tired smile. All that moving has made him really exhausted. “How can I when you’re the one taking care of me? And you’re the host – I can’t possibly demand my way in.”

Rin snorts and goes into the room. “Please. Sousuke does it all the time, and he lives like five minutes away.” His face softens as he ruffles Haruka’s hair. “I’m taking care of you, silly. I need you in tip-top shape for the hospital. If you want something, just tell me. It’s not like there’s a rule saying you can’t have what you want.”

As a child, Haruka was brought up to be as humble as possible. That means to deny the things that he wants when there are already options given to him, even when offered. And he stuck to that philosophy even when he lost his parents and grandmother. He can tell that the mer don’t really agree with that sentiment, saying that it’s okay to be selfish once in a while, but Haruka wouldn’t have any of it. It was hammered so deeply in him he even learned to turn away whenever Makoto gave him those pleading eyes of his.

But the one thing in life he wanted the very most was being a human, and he supposed he could bend that rule just for himself. He did get what he wanted, and it felt exhilarating. And now that he’s human, trying new things and a new life, perhaps he can bend that rule even more?

“I’ll keep that in mind next time,” Haruka promises. He presses down onto the mattress and tries to push himself up, pausing when he hears Rin chuckling.

“We’re really going to have to work on your moving around,” Rin laughs, going over to Haruka. He easily hauls Haruka up and helps him walk out of the room and into the kitchen. “An Aussie breakfast, prepared by me and ready to be eaten by you,” Rin announces as he helps Haruka sit by the dining table. “Well, one of the breakfasts there anyway.”

Haruka swallows as he takes in the feast set out in front of him – fried bacon and eggs, roasted tomatoes, fluffy pancakes topped with blueberries and syrup, and a chilled glass of orange juice sitting nearby. Hardly a feast by anyone’s standards, but there’s so much variety Haruka considers it as one.

“Rin …” he gasps, stomach grumbling and mouth salivating. “This is …”

“It’s nothing,” Rin grins, obviously proud and pleased with Haruka’s reaction. “This is really easy to make after you get the hang of it.” He pulls out a chair and helps Haruka sit. “Okay, so,” he points at the cutlery in front of Haruka, “this is a knife and this is a fork. You use the knife to cut your food and the fork to hold onto the food. You can also use it to, um, get food.”

Haruka blinks.

Rin, having realised his poor choice of wording, scoots closer and picks up the cutlery himself. “Here, just watch me. I’m gonna cut the bacon …”

And Haruka watches, trying to memorise how Rin holds the knife and fork, mimicking the positions with his own hands.

“Now you try,” Rin passes the silverware to Haruka, who holds them in a very flimsy grip.

With a swallow, Haruka assumes the hand positions, glancing at Rin. At Rin’s encouraging nod, Haruka cuts the egg this time, staring in amazement at how easily it separates.

“Hey, good job,” Rin chuckles. “It may feel weird at first, but you’ll get the hang of it. Now eat up.”

And Haruka does. The Witch’s magic is working wonders on him, instantly rewiring his brain to handle the utensils perfectly as if he had been eating with a knife and fork for years. He cuts everything into tiny pieces, Rin raising a brow.

“Whoa,” he mutters. “You’re a really fast learner.”

Too hungry to even think that he should take it slow, Haruka stabs a little bit of everything with his fork and tries to cram them all into his mouth at once. It’s understandably hard, but that doesn’t stop him from still trying. He just manages, jaw already aching from the stretch. The sweet and salty combination hits and – oh. He’s in heaven.

Rin is obviously amused at the sight. “Slow down there,” he chuckles, sinking into the chair next to Haruka. “It’s not like they’re going to run away. And chew your food properly.”

Feeling much like a child being scolded, Haruka scowls at Rin. He does as he’s told, though, unsure of what Rin would do to him if he continued to rebel. If it was Makoto, Haruka would have to be faced with Makoto’s look of disappointment, strong enough to even bring the most rebellious of souls to frantically apologise.

Makoto’s got parenting down on lock, thanks to his younger twin siblings.

Suddenly noticing the lack of tableware in front of Rin, Haruka stares questioningly at him.

Rin waves his hand dismissively. “I already ate. Don’t worry about me.”

Haruka continues to stare, mouth too full to verbalise any proper words.

Rin shrugs. “Just some jam and toast. I can’t really work well on a full stomach. Oh, toast is like … kinda burnt bread?”

Haruka knows what toast is, but Rin’s terrible attempt of an explanation makes him crease his brows in confusion.

Rin chuckles. “I’ll show you later.”

Haruka accepts his statement and continues to practically shovel the food into his mouth. When he was a merman (is? The Witch said he’ll return to his original form once he touches saltwater again), his diet was very limited. Fish, fish, and, if he’s lucky, fish. He branches out occasionally to shellfish and molluscs when he’s getting tired of getting the same damn meal every day. Even though mackerel is delicious and Haruka would gladly have it every single day for the rest of his life, even he has to know when to draw the line and hunt for something else.

He’s brought out of his thoughts when Rin suddenly curses.

“Sorry,” Rin mutters, “but I was thinking about your current situation.”

“Hmm?”

“Chief said I should help you recuperate,” Rin says slowly, replaying last night’s events in his mind. “I need to make sure you’re strong and healthy by the time I bring you to the hospital.”

Haruka swallows, feeling nervous. “Is there a problem?”

“Well, yeah …” Rin scratches his cheek, “but it affects me more than it does you. See, Chief’s orders were that, other than me taking care of you, the next time I bring you with me to the station is when we bring you to the hospital.” He cradles his chin in his hand, staring at nothing. “I need to go to work, but I obviously can’t just leave you here all by yourself …”

Hmm. Well, Haruka hasn’t thought of that. “Do you –” he starts to say, before flushing and shaking his head. “Never mind.”

“What is it?” Rin grins at Haruka, poking him with a slender finger.

“It’s nothing; please ignore what I just said.”

“How can I ignore something you haven’t exactly said yet?” Rin rolls his eyes. “Do you have an idea or suggestion or something?”

Haruka timidly meets Rin’s eyes and nods.

Rin claps his hands together once. “Well, fantastic! I’m open to anything at this point. No idea’s a bad idea. Lay it on me.”

Haruka’s brows crease.

“Uh – tell me what your idea is.”

Nodding slowly, Haruka averts his eyes from Rin’s ruby gaze. “You can … drop me off at a friend’s house.”

He jumps out of his skin when something lands on his hand, realising that it’s only Rin’s own hand, clutching tightly.

“Haru! That’s a great idea!” Rin’s grin is wide, revealing all those pointy teeth, and Haruka swallows before looking away.

Instantly, Rin retracts his hand to cover his mouth, a crestfallen expression on his face. “Oh, crap. Sorry. I’m so sorry. I keep forgetting –”

“It’s fine,” Haruka interrupts, his voice soft. He doesn’t feel hungry anymore.

A heavy silence permeates the air, and Haruka chances a glance at Rin. The redhead’s face is covered by his bangs, so it’s hard to tell what kind of face he’s making right now. Before Haruka can even apologise – for what? For being triggered into having those painful memories again? – Rin looks back at him, a close-lipped smile pasted on his face.

“I’m gonna call the guys and see who’s free to take care of you, okay?” he says, getting up from the table. “You’d better finish your food soon, or I’m gonna stuff it all down your throat. It tastes better hot.”

With another smile flashed at him, Rin goes to the living room and takes something from the coffee table. Stretching his neck as far as it can go, Haruka tries to see what Rin’s doing and realises that Rin’s on his phone, probably scrolling through his contacts list. Rin taps on the screen and holds his phone to his ear. He turns around, notices Haruka and puts on a playful angered expression.

“Eat,” he says as he points at Haruka’s food, before turning away and speaking into his phone.

Slumping back into his chair, Haruka picks up his fork and stabs into a piece of pancake, nibbling slowly into it this time. He falls back into his thoughts easily, tuning out Rin’s voice.

Makoto … how is he? He’s probably trying to get used to the fact that his best friend is gone from the ocean, and that he has less one stubborn ‘child’ to parent over. Haruka’s shoulders slump. He misses his friend greatly, wishing that he was able to somehow bring Makoto to the surface world as well. If it wasn’t for Makoto supporting and grounding him, Haruka would definitely not have been the mer (person?) he is now.

Rin approaches Haruka with a smile and Haruka looks up at him.

“First person I called was Kisumi,” Rin explains.

Kisumi … Haruka thinks. He’s that ‘super preppy’ one, isn’t he?

“Aaaaand he just so happens to be free today!” Rin exclaims, smiling widely.

Haruka freezes. Oh no. Not that one.

“Anything wrong?” Rin asks, having noticed Haruka’s expression.

Haruka quickly shakes his head, staring at his unfinished breakfast. “… Nervous,” he lies.

“Don’t be!” Rin’s hopping about everywhere. “You’ll love him!”

What’s this Kisumi’s relationship to Rin for the redhead to be so excited? Jealousy curls in Haruka’s heart but he waves it away. He has no right to be jealous, since Kisumi and Rin are friends. Haruka doesn’t know why he’s jealous either, and once again he wishes Makoto’s here. Makoto knows about Haruka much more than Haruka knows about himself. Maybe he knows why Haruka’s feeling this way.

“I doubt that,” Haruka mutters.

“Hmm?”

“I said ‘where does he live’?”

“Oh. Not too far from here,” Rin hums. “About twenty minutes on foot, but since I have the car, we can be there by ten.” He looks over at the clock and tsks. “Shit.”

Haruka looks up at him, half a piece of pancake sticking out from his mouth. “Fumfing rong?”

“Um, ew,” Rin chuckles. “Don’t talk with your mouth full. It’s just that I gotta be at the station in twenty, and I gotta get over to Kiss’ place like right now.” He sighs. “Normally I wouldn’t let time get to me, but I guess I was wondering what to make for your breakfast. Guess that took me longer than expected.”

Haruka swallows, guilt thrumming in his chest. “Oh. You didn’t have to.”

“Nonsense,” Rin waves his hand dismissively. “You’re my guest, and I’m taking care of you now. You’re my utmost priority. Besides, I’ve never been late to work before, so this’ll be a first for me.” With a smile, he pats Haruka’s shoulder and leaves for the bedroom. “I’m gonna go get changed and get you the stuff you need. Finish your food. And I mean it this time.”

Haruka obeys, not wanting to trouble Rin any more than he should. The only sounds he hears is the clinking of his fork against his plate, and the occasional rustling from behind the door. The door opens some time later and Haruka instinctively looks up. His eyes go wide and he stills, taking in Rin in his uniform.

Rin looks absolutely stunning. Haruka knows that he’s already seen Rin in his uniform, but there’s just something about him wearing it that makes him look so … good. Is it the ponytail? Maybe it’s the ponytail.

Rin dumps two bags onto the couch and goes back into the room, coming back out with a pile of … things in his hands. He packs them into one of the bags and straightens up, muttering to himself and looking around. He notices Haruka looking at him and chuckles. “I’m nearly done. Don’t forget to drink the juice.”

Haruka glances at the beverage and when he looks back, Rin’s gone. Frowning slightly, Haruka turns back to his plate. His frown deepens when he realises that he just ate half of it. He really needs to finish it.

He ignores Rin for the remainder of his breakfast, too worried that if he so much as glances at the redhead, he’ll stop and stare yet again. But he’d brought out of his thoughts when Rin sits next to him and starts pulling his shoes on.

“Um …” Haruka looks at the genkan before back at Rin. “I thought –”

“Well, I’m the only one living here, so technically I can bend the rules for myself,” Rin says jokingly. “Ah, but you’re living here now too, aren’t you? Let’s keep this a secret between us, okay?” he winks.

An odd feeling rumbles in Haruka’s stomach and he looks away.

“And,” Rin sits up, “I don’t wanna be later than I already am. I’ll put my shoes on at the genkan tomorrow.” He looks at Haruka’s nearly empty plate. “You finished eating?”

“Huh?” Haruka looks at the plate, his stomach already feeling like bursting. “I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can eat anymore.”

Rin smiles. “Hey, that’s perfectly fine. At least it’ll help me know your limits when it comes to food.”

Haruka smiles slightly in gratitude.

Rin stands up and heads for the door, scooping up the shoes Haruka had worn last night. “Gonna put your shoes on.”

Haruka obediently holds his feet out and Rin pulls his chair out, slipping on the shoes and tying the laces with a speed Haruka hopes he can achieve one day. Which, if he’s thinking about the tableware episode earlier today, will happen very soon.

“Done,” Rin announces, standing up. He straightens up and looks at the clock, Haruka looking back as well. The clock is pink and has a white cat wearing a dress printed at the back. Rin notices Haruka’s confused expression and laughs. “That’s Hello Kitty, a pretty famous mascot in Japan. And the rest of the world, now that I think about it. It was a gag gift from Sousuke.”

“‘Gag gift’?” Haruka repeats. He reaches for the glass of juice and downs it in one go. He regrets it almost immediately when the sour taste hits, his face twisting terribly.

It only serves to make Rin laugh even more. “Aw man, you should’ve seen your face!” He grabs a clean glass and fills it with water from the faucet, handing it to Haruka. “That was really cute.”

Haruka stills momentarily before taking a large drink, hoping that Rin wouldn’t notice the redness on his face. There it is again, that feeling in his stomach.

“A gag gift is something you give to someone else as a joke,” Rin explains, gathering the dirty dishes and placing them in the sink. He immediately starts washing them, making Haruka feel even guiltier for taking his time with his breakfast when Rin still has to clean up. He’s already late, for crying out loud. “Don’t recommend you do it to just anyone, by the way. If you’re really close with the person then it’s fine.”

“Would you do it to me?” Haruka can’t help but ask.

The only person he considers himself close to is obviously Makoto, but he’s never heard of doing such a thing. Unless he thinks back to when they were still both young – Haruka had nothing to give him for his birthday so he just ripped out a clump of seaweed and presented it to Makoto. Still, Haruka wouldn’t consider that a ‘gag gift’, since he didn’t have any humorous intentions with it. He just had nothing to give to Makoto. And Makoto seemed touched with his actions, anyway.

“I guess?” Rin chuckles. “Let’s become even closer, Haru!”

Haruka smiles. “Okay.”

Another glance at the clock has Rin starting to panic. “Okay, um, crap, but if we don’t leave, like, right now, I actually may get my ass kicked by Chief Mikoshiba. So I need to carry you right now.”

Oh god, not again. But seeing how Haruka can’t walk and Rin’s already pretty late, Haruka resigns himself to his fate yet again. He startles when Rin lays one of the bags on his lap.

“This is the stuff you’re gonna be using in Kiss’ house,” Rin explains, his own bag over his shoulders. “Hold onto that, okay?”

Haruka nods, lifting his arms as Rin scoops him yet again. He adjusts both his position and the bag on his lap as Rin kicks the chair back into position, staying silent as Rin carries him out.

“Close the door for me,” Rin says, and Haruka unhooks one of his arms to grab hold of the handle. He pulls the door quite quickly towards him, jumping slightly when it bangs shut. Rin chuckles. “Not too fast next time. We wouldn’t want to annoy the neighbours. Okay, so, reach into my breast pocket. My keys are in there …”

Haruka listens and follows Rin’s instructions on how to lock the door. It confused him greatly at first, not knowing which way the key should be facing, but he got it in the end. His reward is Rin smiling brilliantly at him, though his mouth is still shut.

“Hey, you’re learning pretty fast!” Rin laughs after Haruka had slipped the keys back in his pocket. “Now if only we can say the same for your walking.”

“I’m sorry,” Haruka mumbles.

“Don’t be!” Rin assures him, walking down the stairs. “Walking takes time to learn. You have to get used to it. After all, learning how to do stuff with our hands was much easier and faster to do than walking when we were born. So think of it like you being born all over again.”

Haruka thinks about Rin’s explanation. It does make sense now that he thinks about it. Merpeople were born with hands and fingers, not legs and feet. It explains why holding cutlery and inserting a key into a keyhole are much easier to do compared to walking.

They reach the car and Rin instructs Haruka once again, this time telling him how to work the car alarm and open the door; this time the keys are in Rin’s pants pocket, so Haruka had to manoeuvre around. Needless to say, it took some time to finally extract the keys.

“Seatbelts,” Rin says as he slams the car door shut and presses the master lock button. Both his and Haruka’s bags are at the backseat, safely away from them. He buckles himself up and Haruka does the same for himself, eyes lighting up with fascination at the click. “You really like that, don’t you?”

“It’s … interesting,” Haruka admits. He was unable to play with the seatbelt last night as he was bundled up, but now that he’s free, he wants to play with it now.

“Don’t keep unclicking it, though. You might wear it out,” Rin turns the engine on and presses a couple of buttons, Haruka nearly screaming in shock at the sudden burst of cold air. Rin winces. “Oops. Sorry. Forgot that you don’t like it cold. Here,” he taps at a knob before starting to drive, “adjust it to however you like. The lower the number, the colder it is.”

Haruka stares at the knob and twiddles with it, sighing in relief when he finds it at a nice temperature.

Rin, however, seems to disagree. Slowing down at a stoplight, he glances at the numbers and raises a brow. “Dude, what the hell? Thirty C? If I wanted that, I would’ve just opened the window.”

“Well, I like it,” Haruka frowns.

“Nuh uh, no way,” Rin reaches out for it and turns it down until it’s twenty-three.

“Rin!” Haruka gasps. And he said ‘adjust it to however he likes’.

“You gotta get used to this,” Rin starts to drive again when the light turns green. “Lots of places in here are cold to compensate for Japan’s weather.”

“But –”

“You can always layer up whenever you get cold,” Rin says. “But you can’t keep taking your clothes off when it gets too hot. Not only will the public frown at your lack of decency, but there are times where you’ll still feel hot as hell and you wanna tear your own skin off.”

Shuddering at the mental imagery, Haruka thinks of other solutions. He only comes up with one. “But I’ve seen humans by the beach when the day is exceptionally bright. Don’t they cool off in the water?”

“Oh, so you know about that, huh?” Rin sounds proud. Haruka can’t even think of berating himself for letting his knowledge slip through when Rin’s got such a smug smile on his face. “Sure, we can go cool ourselves by going swimming and whatnot, but there are times when it gets hot. Like really hot, and the water is unbearable to touch. It’s like swimming in lava.”

Lava? Haruka waits for Rin to explain what it is, but he doesn’t really need it, not when the image and general knowledge of it springs to mind. Haruka swallows. How unpleasant. He casts his mind around for a change of topic, but thankfully Rin speaks instead.

“You’re gonna be with Kiss until my shift’s over, so that’s like nine hours.”

At that, Haruka bristles. Nine hours? Nine hours with a man he already doesn’t like? “What’ll he do to me?”

“Well, nothing that you don’t want him to do,” Rin snorts. “He’s nice, I promise. But I told him about your, er, situation, and he promised that he’ll help however you can.”

“Oh?” That sounds … nice of him. Now Haruka feels horrible for disliking the man before he’s even met him.

“Yeah,” Rin chuckles. “He’s one of my best friends. I thought our friendship would be awkward after what he did, but I’m glad that wasn’t the case.”

Haruka raises a brow at the redhead. “What did he do?”

Rin shrugs. “Try to make out with me.”

Haruka’s throat tightens. He knows what that is, even before becoming a human. “What?”

Rin mistakes the tone of his voice. “Uh, you know, make out. It’s like kissing, when people press their lips together. But, like, with a lot of tongue.”

“Yeah, okay, I get that,” Haruka grabs Rin’s arm, squeezing hard and causing the latter to yelp. “But why?”

“Whoa whoa whoa, let go!” Rin tries to pry his arm free, and Haruka releases almost immediately later. “Don’t do that! That was really dangerous! I could’ve swerved and hit a traffic light or something! And I so don’t need that on my record.”

“Sorry,” Haruka apologises, “but why did he try to …” he shrugs vaguely, “you know …”

“Oh. Well, because he likes me.”

Haruka has to stop himself from lunging at Rin again. “Wh-what?” Screw him being nice, that Kisumi guy is going down.

“Actually, it should be ‘liked’. It’s all in the past,” Rin chuckles. “He likes someone else now. He wouldn’t tell me who it is, though.”

Haruka breathes a sigh of relief.

“He still keeps trying to kiss me, though. Says it’s funny.”

What?!”

“Oh, old lady crossing,” Rin says, slowing down and giving the pedestrian a friendly nod as he waits for her to finish crossing. “We’re not that far actually. Just a couple blocks more.”

Haruka tries his best to push away the questions still wanting to bubble out. He’s not sure whether Rin’s avoiding talking about it or if he doesn’t think it to be of any importance to continue discussing it further. Either way, Haruka doesn’t push it. “So, uh … what will I be doing there?”

“I don’t know,” Rin shrugs. “Kiss says he’ll help however he can. So if you have questions, you can ask him. Oh! And he’ll be teaching you things too.”

Haruka raises a brow at Rin just as the redhead continues to drive again. “Like?”

“Brushing your teeth, for one,” Rin laughs. “I got a spare toothbrush for you in your bag. Oh, and he’s gonna help you bathe.”

“B-bathe?!” Is Rin seriously expecting Haruka to put up with … with … with some peon seeing him naked? “Rin –”

“Here we are!” Rin announces cheerily as he slows the car down in front of an apartment building similar to Rin’s.

Haruka sees a rather tall man with pink hair waving jovially at the two of them. Oh god. He is so not going to be able to get along with him, Haruka just knows it.

Rin rolls the car window down and the pink-haired man jogs around the car to get to him. “Kisumi!” Rin greets with a wide grin. He holds an arm out, bent at the elbow and hand curled into a loose fist.

“Officer Matsuoka!” the one Haruka now knows as Kisumi beams back, his own arm bent like Rin’s. They bump their arms against each other’s – a greeting, Haruka supposes – and Rin chuckles.

“Stop calling me that, you bastard,” he laughs. “Help me get Haru’s bag out; it’s on the backseat next to mine.”

Kisumi salutes and obediently heads towards the back of the car. “Yessir.”

Rin presses the master lock key again to unlock the doors and turns the engine off. With a smile aimed at Haruka, he unbuckles both their seatbelts. “Well, this is where I drop you off,” he says in a soft voice. “You’ll be in good hands, I promise.”

But Haruka’s scared. He doesn’t want to separate from Rin. He takes Rin’s hand and squeezes tightly. “Rin …” he mumbles. “I don’t … want to be away from you.” He knows that even though he’s the one who suggested being left behind with a friend of Rin, he still doesn’t want Rin to go.

Rin chuckles and pats Haruka on the head with his free hand. “I’m sorry, Haru, but this is the only solution we’ve got. Well, for now at least.” His smile turns gentle. “We’ll think of something for the next time, okay?”

Haruka knows. He knows that he can beg and scream and maybe even whine and Rin would call up his captain and tell him that he couldn’t make it to work today. (Well, he hopes, at least.) But he doesn’t want to inconvenience Rin, no matter how selfish he wants to be.

“Hey,” Rin places his finger under Haruka’s chin and tilts it up. “No more frowning, okay? I’ll come fetch you when my shift’s over ASAP. Uh, as soon as possible. I’ll even drop by during my lunch break.”

“I don’t think you’ll have one at the rate of how late you’re going to be,” a voice interrupts them, and whatever blanket of warmth that had settled over Haruka is ripped off in a flash.

Haruka shoots Kisumi a not even subtle glare.

“Shit, you’re right,” Rin curses, just as Haruka turns back around to face him.

“Rin –”

“I’ll have to get you out quickly.” Rin pops his head out of the car and looks down the road to make sure no oncoming vehicles are nearby. Once he deems it safe, he opens his door and slams it back shut, quickly going over to Haruka. “Alright, Haru. You know what to do.”

Haruka finds out that getting out of a car is still harder than getting in, even if he’s not wrapped up in a blanket anymore. Still, Rin’s patient, and Kisumi even lends a hand. (Which Haruka may or may not have grabbed tightly to stabilise himself.) When Haruka’s standing upright, Rin smiles at him once more.

“You don’t have to worry about your necklace. I already told Kiss everything.”

“Yup!” Kisumi exclaims. “I’ll make sure not to touch your precious jewellery!”

Someone stop Haruka because he is this close to committing cold-blooded murder. He doesn’t care if he’s in full view of the public, nor does he care that he’s right in front of a policeman – he will stab Kisumi.

“I gotta go now. I’ll see you in a bit, okay, Haru?” Rin waits for the cars to pass before going back to his side of the car. He clambers back in and starts the engine again. “Play nice, boys,” he waves as he drives off.

Don’t go! Haruka wants to scream, watching the car turn the corner and disappear from sight.

Kisumi turns to Haruka, a smile on his face (honestly, Haruka’s starting to think that he attracts people who won’t stop smiling). “So! Nice to finally meet you, Haru!” he grins, his cat-like eyes becoming even narrower from his smile. “Rin-chan explained everything to me. I’ll teach you everything you need to know!”

Everything he needs to know, huh? Haruka’s fucking holding onto that.

Chapter Text

Rin sighs as he pulls up into the spot designated for his police car. Killing the ignition, Rin checks the time on his watch. Hmm. He’s still on time, luckily. Just a minute or two more and Chief will have his ass. Rin yanks the keys out, reaches for his bag in the back seat and steps out.

“Hey.”

Rin jumps so badly his stomach contracts, causing him to bend over and clutch his stomach. “Ow. You asshole …”

Sousuke just chuckles and hands Rin an iced caramel latte. “Sorry. Haven’t done that in a while.”

“Yup,” Rin growls, locking the door and setting the alarm. “I miss having you scare the everlasting shit out of me.”

“I wasn’t planning to, but I thought you needed some cheering up.”

Rin raises a brow at his friend. “That’s a terrible way to cheer someone up.”

Sousuke rolls his eyes. “It’s the only thing I could think of, alright?”

“But why would you think that I needed cheering up?” Rin frowns.

“You looked like you got the worst news of your life.” Sousuke loops an arm around Rin’s neck and the two of them head inside the station. “What, are you banned from going back to Australia?”

Rin stares at Sousuke with a horrified face. “Don’t even joke about that!”

“Right, right. You’re sensitive about your second home.” Sousuke rolls his eyes. “But seriously though, you kept sighing. And where’s the little guy?” He looks around, having just noticed Haruka’s disappearance and looking around as if he’s expecting him to be in the station.

“That’s what I was thinking about,” Rin takes a sip of his coffee. “Haru’s over at Kiss’ place. Kiss is free, but that’s only because someone else is covering his shift. I can’t be too sure about tomorrow, and I sure as hell don’t want to leave Haru in here. Or anywhere else.”

“We can bring him to the hospital earlier than expected,” Sousuke suggests as they reach their shared office. Chief Mikoshiba has been impressed with their work as of late and had them move from individual cubicles to their own shared office, something which Rin is going to take full advantage of.

Rin snorts and places his bag down on his chair. “That doesn’t change the fact that he would still have to go somewhere afterwards. We’re not exactly so well-off to pay a hospital to keep him there indefinitely.”

“Yeah …” Sousuke agrees. “Well, you’ll think of something. After all, it’s not like you took him in without a backup plan.”

Rin’s only response is to sip his coffee.

Sousuke’s expression turns unamused. “Rin.”

“I’m sorry!” Rin whines. “It was a spur of the moment thing!”

“Rin –” Sousuke cuts himself off with a sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose. He regards Rin very seriously. “What are you gonna do if Sei finds out about you just dumping the guy in your house when you’re supposed to take care of him?”

“I wasn’t going to do that!” Rin flails his free arm. “And that wasn’t what I was even thinking of doing –”

“Sei’s going to kick your ass,” Sousuke continues, ignoring Rin. “Or maybe even fire it.”

“Like you said, I’ll think of something,” Rin pouts, placing his cup down on his overflowing desk. “Just … not at the moment.”

“Rin.”

“I’ll have a solution by tonight.”

“And how exactly do you plan on doing that?” Sousuke folds his arms. “You’ve still got some paperwork to file, and you’re terrible at multitasking.”

Rin swallows slowly. “I know that …” He looks at Sousuke pointedly, hoping his friend will get what he’s trying to say.

And Sousuke does, frowning hard. “No.”

“Sou, come on,” Rin whines again.

I said no,” Sousuke growls, and it reminded Rin of Haruka fiercely denying giving him his necklace so much he almost steps back. But he knows how to deal with Sousuke, having been friends since elementary school. “I’m not going to take over your workload.”

Rin sighs exaggeratedly. “Alright, then. Looks like I’ll have to do things all by myself – thinking of what to do with Haru next, file my paperwork, avoid Sei for the whole day …” He sighs again, much heavier than the previous one. “My performance is going to drop sooooo much today … and all because I can’t multitask.”

He hears a mutter from Sousuke and peeks expectantly at him. “I’m sorry?”

Sousuke sighs heavily, much more genuinely than Rin’s, as he faces the redhead. “Fine,” he grunts. “But only until lunch. You’d better think of something, Matsuoka, or I’ll be the one kicking your ass. You remember last time.”

And yes, Rin definitely remembers ‘last time’, the time he had riled Sousuke up so much that the latter actually connected his foot to his butt so hard that Rin couldn’t sit for fifteen whole minutes.

As if memory triggered pain, Rin places both his hands on his butt and winces. “Don’t remind me.”

“Good.” Sousuke sinks heavily into his chair. “Now pass me your shit. You’re lucky I’m almost completely done with my own stuff.”

Rin excitedly passes one of his piles to Sousuke. He may be the cleanest freak in his house, but he just couldn’t seem to transfer his cleaning habits over to his desk. He’s got so much work on it that he’s certain he can create a paper tsunami just by knocking a pile down. “Here you go! These are the ones Sei asked for ages ago!”

“Jesus Christ, Rin, these were supposed to be handed to him last month,” Sousuke breathes out, leafing through the pile. “How are you not fired after all this?”

“I got in good with his younger bro,” Rin says proudly, picking his coffee up again. He swirls it gently to mix the caffeine and the water that had melted from the ice. “Momo absolutely adores me. And knowing how much Sei loves Momo, I know how he’d rather cut off his own tongue than disappoint Lil’ Mikoshiba.”

“I have no idea how you’ve been promoted to this office,” Sousuke mutters, dumping the pile on his desk. “Your work ethics are terrible.”

“Terribly good?” Rin smiles over the rim of his cup.

“Terribly terrible,” Sousuke shoots Rin a glare.

“You’re just jealous I’ve solved more cases than you,” Rin scoffs.

“Stealing Kisumi’s thunder and saving cats from trees do not count as cases.”

“Fuck you, they so count!”

Sousuke just rolls his eyes and dumps Rin’s work pile on his own desk, grabbing the topmost bunch of papers. The sooner Rin stops yapping and think of a solution, the better.

 

 

 

Alright, so even though Haruka has had the (dis)pleasure of being in the company of what seems to be the World’s Most Talkative Person, he has to admit that Kisumi is, well, nice. He’s been giving Haruka space and seems to be genuinely trying his best to make Haruka comfortable.

Well, while Haruka would like to think that, he has this suspicion that whatever is in that room Kisumi keeps going to is taking up most of his attention, and that if Kisumi wasn’t so preoccupied, he’d annoy Haruka well until next week.

Right now, Haruka’s seated on Kisumi’s rather nice plush sofa. While it’s admittedly nicer than Rin’s, it’s a little … worn out. Kisumi must have loved this couch. And Haruka doesn’t blame him, not with how soft the seat is.

“Hey.”

Haruka looks up to see Kisumi standing over him, a smile on his face.

“Are you hungry?”

“Not really,” Haruka mumbles. He had, after all, eaten just before leaving.

“You wanna do anything?”

“Not particularly.”

Kisumi chuckles, patting Haruka on the shoulder. “You’re so quiet, Haru.” A muffled groan comes from behind the closed door, the same closed door he keeps disappearing behind, and his smile turns rather pained. “Ah, I have to get back. I’m really sorry. I know I promised Rin-chan that I’ll take care of you, but –”

“Who’s in there?” Haruka can’t help but ask. Damn politeness to hell – he is too curious in the contents of that room to care about nicety.

Kisumi’s smile falters before it drops, making way for a sigh. “My younger brother, Hayato. He’s supposed to go out with my parents to this two-day business trip, but he caught the flu and he has to stay here. So I’m taking care of him now.”

“Oh.” Haruka feels something in him knot up. It’s the same feeling he gets whenever Makoto worried over his own siblings getting sick: helplessness. “Did you … take the day off … for him?”

“Yeah, of course,” Kisumi gently sits on the coffee table. “I love Hayato to bits. I’d do anything to keep him safe. Even if it means I get fired over it.”

Haruka finds an involuntary smile pulling at his lips. Kisumi’s a lot like Makoto when it comes to his siblings. But before he can continue comparing the two of them, something dawns on him that makes his frown return. “Did we impose on you? I’m so sorry if we did –”

Kisumi interrupts him with a dismissive wave of his hand. “It’s totally fine. I owe Rin-chan a lot, seriously. This is just me finally giving back to him.”

Haruka wants to inquire more, but a loud hacking cough erupts from the room and Kisumi shoots up like a bullet. “Shit, I should –”

“Shouldn’t he eat something?” Haruka asks hesitantly. “I mean, he may not want to, but he still needs his nutrients.”

Kisumi chuckles. “Yeah. This isn’t the first time Hayato’s gotten sick. I would have made him something by now, but I think his cold’s more severe this time. And I don’t want to leave his side any longer than I should.”

Haruka knows what he’s going to say. He already knows what he’s going to say next and he shouldn’t fucking say anything but he opens his mouth and the words spill out: “Um, I could, you know, make something for him.”

Kisumi, hand already on the doorknob, stares at Haruka with wide eyes. “You would?”

Haruka stares back. “Am I not supposed to?”

Kisumi hastily backpedals. “No, no, no, it’d be awesome if you did! I just …” His expression becomes uncomfortable. “Don’t you have, uh, a condition?”

And yep, Haruka should not have said something. But he feels useless just sitting here doing nothing, and he feels bad that he’s under Kisumi’s care when he already has someone else to take care of.

“I have a cookbook,” Haruka says, choosing his words carefully. “I’ve been reading it a lot, so I think I can try my best. And …” he swallows, hoping that his lie is convincing, “I’m remembering things bit by bit. I can make soup, at the very least.”

Kisumi’s face breaks out into a beaming smile. “Really? Thanks, Haru! That’ll really help me out! Here, let me just help you to the kitchen –”

“It’s fine,” Haruka says, stopping Kisumi before he can take another step towards him. “I can handle myself. You go take care of your brother now.”

Another grateful smile, but more subdued this time. “Thanks, Haru,” Kisumi says again. “Really. I just bought some chicken before you came here, so you can use that. It’s in the freezer, but I don’t think it’s frozen yet. If you need anything else, just yell.”

Haruka nods and Kisumi flashes him one more smile before entering the room to tend to Hayato. Once he’s gone, Haruka looks towards the kitchen.

Okay. Here goes.

Gripping tightly onto the couch’s armrest, Haruka forces himself to stand up. On shaky legs, he makes his way to the kitchen. He thinks he’s improved significantly, since he can actually lift his feet now. He still collapses into things along the way, but not enough to raise any alarms.

He finally gets into the kitchen with no incidents, and Haruka braces himself against the counter as he thinks of what he can make for Hayato. Whatever it is, it needs to be made quickly, since his feet can’t support him very well yet. The first thing that springs to mind is chicken soup, and even though it takes at least thirty minutes to make, he can rest while the chicken’s cooking.

So Haruka finds himself opening the nearby cabinets and drawers to take out the needed ingredients and utensils. Before long, he’s gathered everything he needs, though getting the chicken was a bit harder to do. It’s not frozen yet, but it’s still really cold, so he had dumped it into a basin filled with water to warm it up. Snagging the apron thrown over a chair, Haruka slips it on and pulls the chopping board and garlic towards him.

At this point, his brain fires orders after orders at him, his own body moving mechanically as he shreds the carrots, slices the celery stalks and chops the chicken. He sprinkles the garlic into a soup pan, places the chicken pieces in and adds a teaspoon of olive oil. Haruka’s preparing and cooking a dish he absolutely has no prior knowledge of. And yet, his movements are of someone who’s been doing this for years, maybe even of a professional’s.

But he can think clearly, the thought what am I doing? drifting through his mind more than once, even as he continues to cook. He’s not some mindless robot. He’s actually preparing human food, and it feels amazing.

The rest of the cooking passes by in a blur – the simmering, adding the vegetables and allowing it to cook until it’s soft and finally adding in the egg noodles (thank god Kisumi had some, or Haruka would have thrown a fit). Haruka turns the stove off and collapses into a nearby chair, his chest heaving as he stares wide-eyed at the pot.

It all happened so quickly that he sort of zoned out. He was more interested with how quickly his hands were moving, no pause or hesitation, and how smoothly his brain relayed information to the rest of his body. He didn’t even notice that his legs were struggling to hold him up.

Haruka glances back down at his legs. They were able to hold him up for so long. Perhaps he can stand properly now?

With both hands clutching the chair seat and the table next to him, Haruka forces himself on his feet. When he doesn’t feel himself tipping over, he releases his hold on the furniture and spreads his arms out to balance himself. Hmm, a little shaky, but not enough to raise alarms.

Haruka grins brightly. Discovering that he can both stand and cook under the span of an hour? He’s pretty sure that’s something to tell Rin about.

Haruka’s smile drops instantly as worry hits him. Oh no, he’s forgotten about Rin. He absolutely cannot let Rin know that he somehow can cook. It’ll definitely make Rin suspicious, and Haruka actually likes Rin. Rin’s nice, puts Haruka before himself, and has made sure that his life source is safe. Who’s to say Haruka will ever find another person like him?

But … Haruka glances his finished dish. He can’t just throw this away either. Not only will it be a waste of ingredients, but he had already told Kisumi that he’d make his younger brother something. And Hayato’s sick, which flares a protective feeling in Haruka’s gut.

He isn’t given the chance to debate his choices any longer, not when Kisumi chooses that time to enter the kitchen.

“Hey, Haru,” Kisumi grins, before doing a double-take and looking Haruka up and down. “Oh, wow! You’re standing up!”

Haruka, his cheeks going slightly pink, looks down at his own legs. “Yeah …”

“That’s great progress!” Kisumi laughs, patting Haruka on the back. “Can’t wait to tell Rin! So, what did you make?” He goes to the stove and lifts the lid, mouth dropping open. “You made chicken soup?”

Haruka swallows. “Yeah.”

“Awesome! That’s just what Hayato needs!” Kisumi rummages through his cutlery drawer and pulls out a spoon, dipping it into the soup. He blows on the spoon and takes a sip, his eyes widening as he looks over at Haruka.

Haruka winces. “Is it bad?” Well, the Witch did say she would make him into a chef, but she didn’t say he’ll be a good one. But can chefs even be bad at what they do?

“Haru. Oh my god, this is delicious,” Kisumi says, his eyes turning into upturned crescents. “And really hot, too, I need to give some to Hayato quickly before it cools down.”

Heart fluttering in his chest, Haruka smiles slightly. “Really?”

“Why would I lie to you about that? This is great!” Kisumi grabs a bowl and ladles the soup into it, grabbing a new spoon. “I need to tell Rin about this.”

And instantly, Haruka’s heart plummets. “Really?” he says again, but this time with more dread in his voice.

“Yes, really,” Kisumi says, oblivious to Haruka’s plight. “I need to tell him after I give this to Hayato. You go sit right back down and rest, Haru. I’ll go call Rin.”

Haruka reaches out for Kisumi. “Wait –”

But Kisumi’s gone in a flash, and Haruka’s left staring at an empty doorway. He hears the door open and close and he falls back down into the chair, staring at the floor as he clutches at his hair.

Oh no.

 

 

 

Somewhere on Rin’s cluttered desk, a muffled ringing sounds.

“Phone,” Sousuke says, not looking up from Rin’s paperwork.

“Yeah, I know,” Rin grumbles back, trying to sort the rest of his paperwork. They’ve both got no cases to solve, nor do they have any patrolling to do, so they’re filing their work. Well, Rin is, since Sousuke’s doing his shit.

Balancing the stack on his legs, Rin carefully scours his desk for his phone, cursing himself for putting it on his desk in the first place. It’s definitely going to be hard to find his phone. Rin slips his hand underneath the papers strewn about and breathes in relief when it touches plastic, pulling his phone out. Staring at the name on his phone, Rin’s brows furrow in confusion.

“Who is it?” Sousuke asks.

“Kiss,” Rin says. “Why would he be calling me?”

Sousuke glances at him before writing something down. “Answer it to find out.”

Rin stares at it for a moment later before accepting the call. “Hello?”

“Rinrin!” Kisumi nearly shrieks into the phone.

Rin wrenches his phone away from his ear, wincing in pain. “Ow, Kiss!” he complains before bringing the phone back. “Lower your voice. What’s up?”

“Rinrin, why didn’t you tell me that Haru can cook?”

Rin blinks. “Huh?”

“Yeah! And he’s amazing at it!” Kisumi continues, obviously excited. “I’m watching over Hayato because he’s sick, so Haru offered to make something for him.”

“But …”

“Oh, and don’t worry about Hayato, he’s fine. Well, he’s super fine now thanks to Haru’s amazing as hell soup! Is he a chef? Because he totally should be, Rinrin!”

“A – a chef?” Rin repeats, getting even more and more confused.

Sousuke looks up at Rin, frowning at Rin’s expression.

“You can see for it yourself during your lunch break, Rinrin! You won’t regret it, I promise!”

“Kiss –”

“Oh, gotta go! See you during lunch, Rinrin!”

Rin stares at his phone again, this time out of shock and confusion. Haruka can cook? Is he a chef? He has amnesia, but he can only remember his name, his necklace being important to him, and his profession?

“Rin?” Sousuke calls out. “Rin, are you okay?”

Rin doesn’t respond, his head spinning. What is going on?

Chapter Text

Rin drums his fingers against the steering wheel as he impatiently waits for the red light to change to green. The moment it does, Rin floors it, pretty sure he’s on the verge of breaking the speed limit.

After that phone call from Kisumi, he couldn’t really focus on his work, mind buzzing with questions. Does Haruka have selective amnesia? Rin’s heard of such cases happening before, so it’s possible. Maybe Haruka has those kinds of ‘temporary amnesia’, where he’s forgotten nearly everything and is remembering them all bit by bit.

While that is also another possibility, both of them don’t explain why Haruka can’t walk, is unable to do the simplest things with his hands, like hold cutlery (though he is a fast learner), why he was found naked on the beach, and why he only has his cookbook and necklace on him.

Maybe Haruka had a super wild party earlier that night, which consisted of him losing his clothes somewhere along the way and hitting his head hard enough to damage the temporal lobe.

… Which is stupid now that Rin thinks about it, since not only was there no one nearby, but nobody even called the police station to look for Haruka. There was no sign of Haruka’s clothes nearby either, nor did he look like he was in any pain beforehand.

Another crazy theory, that Rin can’t believe he thought of, is that Haruka is actually a criminal, and that he’s part of a gang or something similar. He did something which had upset his boss greatly, which caused him to be exiled from the gang.

Which, like before, also doesn’t make sense, because it would be more sensible for the boss to either bruise Haruka heavily but let him stay with the gang, or kill him before dumping him into the ocean. Haruka’s body was completely unblemished, no sign of any wounds or bruises anywhere, so that theory’s out.

Speaking of criminals, Rin had found out that the first thing Chief Mikoshiba did after sending both Haruka and him home was that he ordered one of Rin’s colleagues to search through the criminal database.

Aiichirou had called Rin up sometime before Kisumi’s call to reveal that he came up empty with Haruka’s name, much to Rin’s relief. However, those were only the records of Japan, so they need to broaden their search the rest of the world. Haruka may be a criminal somewhere else, and if that’s true, then Rin has no choice other than to apprehend him and bring him to justice, no matter how much Rin doesn’t want to.

It was driving Rin crazy, and he couldn’t focus at his paperwork at all (to which Sousuke had muttered not surprised, earning a well-deserved punch to his bicep). He needs answers, and he needs them now.

The moment the clock hit twelve, Rin had leapt from his chair, triggered the paper tsunami (followed by Sousuke’s yell of shock), rushed to his assigned car, and drove off, not even caring that he’s not allowed to use the police car for personal use. He’s most probably going to get chewed out by Chief Mikoshiba later, but he’s nearly at Kisumi’s house, and as long as Rin gets even the tiniest bit of explanation, it’s worth it.

He screeches to a stop in front of Kisumi’s house, hurriedly killing the engine and yanking the keys out. “Kisumi!” Rin yells, banging his fist on the door. He hopes that the passers-by don’t take this the wrong way and think that Kisumi’s in trouble with the authorities.

The door opens and Kisumi grins widely. “Rinrin! You’re here!” His smile changes to a look of concern. “Are you okay?”

“Fantastic,” Rin pushes past Kisumi, not bothering to take his shoes off. “Where’s Haru?”

“Haru?” Kisumi sounds confused. “He’s in the guest bedroom –”

Rin instantly heads towards the room, tuning Kisumi out. He’ll explain later, feeling awful for snubbing his friend just like that, but he needs to talk to Haruka now. He nearly bursts into the room in his haste, but manages to catch himself just in time at the last moment. Swallowing hard, Rin clears his throat and knocks the door.

“Haru, it’s me. I’m coming in.”

He doesn’t wait for an answer and just opens the door, Haruka sitting on the edge of the bed. It might have just been Rin’s imagination, but he’s sure he saw Haruka tensing up as he looks away, however slight it may be. Rin resists the urge to narrow his eyes suspiciously at him. What was that about?

“Haru,” Rin says shortly, before tacking on a (hopefully not forced) smile. “Did you have a great day with Kisumi?”

Haruka shrugs and looks away. “It’s only been a few hours,” he mumbles. “I’d hardly consider it a day.”

Rin smiles. “True,” he sits down next to Haruka, ignoring how Haruka tenses slightly again (and how his heart pricks from the action). “But so far, I mean. Enjoying your time with Kisumi?”

Haruka shrugs, still not looking at Rin. “I guess. I feel guilty that you brought me here to Shigino-san’s place while he’s looking after his brother, but I’m enjoying the peace and quiet.”

“Peace and quiet, huh?” Rin snorts. “Just you wait till Kiss gets the two of you alone. You two are total opposites. He’ll talk your ear off.”

That has Haruka frowning.

“What did you do while I was gone?”

Haruka swallows and stares down at his feet. “… I learned I could stand.”

“Really?” That brings a genuine smile from Rin. Oh god, he so hopes Haruka isn’t guilty of anything. It’ll be terrible to see a friend behind bars. “That’s awesome! So can you –”

“Baby steps, Rin,” Haruka smiles slightly, wiggling his toes as he recalls the words Rin had told him the first night Haruka tried to walk. “That means I can’t walk yet. But I think I’ll be able to soon.”

“I think you’ll be able to walk soon, too,” Rin ruffles Haruka’s hair. “I’m so proud of you, Haru! What else did you do?”

And Haruka freezes, just like that, which in turn makes Rin’s smile fade. “Haru?” Rin says, voice soft and cautious.

Haruka’s gaze changes into something terrified as he stares at the floor. He knows that Rin knows about his ability to cook, especially since Kisumi had talked to Rin on the phone with Haruka in the same room. He has to think of something fast, or Rin will find start to think there’s something odd about him.

“Haru,” Rin says again, laying a hand on Haruka’s. “Haru, you don’t have to hide anything from me. I know you can cook, but I’m not going to hold that against you. It’s not like there’s a law saying that those with amnesia can’t cook.”

And Haruka starts to feel a little brave, so he finally, finally, looks at Rin. Rin’s brows are furrowed in concern, but there’s still that slight, gentle smile that makes Haruka feel alright again. Rin’s smile widens and he pokes one of Haruka’s cheek. “That finally got you to look at me with those pretty eyes,” he teases.

Haruka’s pretty sure his entire face is red.

Rin’s smile dies down slightly into the encouraging one just moments before. “Haru, I’m going to ask you something, and I need you to be completely honest with me.”

Haruka nods immediately. “Okay,” he says.

No, he thinks.

Rin’s eyes turn serious and his smile drops completely. “Are you hiding another identity?”

And mother of mercy, Haruka would have almost fainted had it not been for the question stunning him into temporary blankness. Oh god, has he been found out already? Should he just confess? It’s not like he’s going to harm humans, he just wants to live amongst them, so there’s no harm in doing so. But if he does confess, then he might be brought into a laboratory or something similar and have experiments performed on him, something which he’s very sure is an unpleasant experience.

So he goes for the safest route: pretending to be confused.

Haruka wills his eyes to blink, and he hopes they don’t come off as stiff. “I’m sorry?”

Rin releases Haruka’s hand and grabs both his biceps instead. He leans in, eyes screaming with urgency. “Are you hiding another identity?” he repeats, voice lower.

“No,” Haruka instantly says. He wanted to brush it off, continue being a confused fool, but the sudden action that Rin took had Haruka blurting out without thinking.

“Are you sure?” Rin presses.

Haruka’s heart is pounding at how frightened he is of Rin at the moment. “Yes!”

“Rin,” a voice suddenly cuts in, and both of them look at the doorway to see Kisumi leaning against the doorjamb with his arms crossed. “Let go of Haru. Come on, you’re scaring the guy.”

Thank you, Shigino-san, Haruka thinks when the pressure around his biceps disappear.

Rin scoots a ways away from Haruka and sighs, head hanging. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I just …” He timidly peeks at Haruka through his bangs, and when he sees Haruka tensing slightly when their eyes lock, he hurriedly tore his gaze away, heart squeezing. “I’m sorry,” he says again, voice not more over a whisper.

How can he just force himself on Haruka like that? How can he intimidate the man he’s just trying to get answers from? He never meant to scare Haruka, but the questions and confusion were all piling up that he just couldn’t help but explode. He’s supposed to take care of Haruka, not make the guy terrified of him.

“Rin,” Kisumi says, standing in front of Rin. “What’s wrong?”

Rin closes his eyes. “Nothing.”

“It doesn’t sound like nothing,” Kisumi says, his voice devoid of any cheeriness. Haruka shrinks in on himself a little. He hates it whenever someone, whose usual disposition is a sunny smile permanently etched onto their face, becomes serious. He’s only seen it happen twice with Makoto, and it still scares him to this day. “Tell me what’s up.”

Rin covers his face with his hands and takes a shuddering breath. “Ai told me that Sei got him to look through the criminal database for Haru. No results were found for Japan, but they’re doing an international search too, just in case.”

He drops his hands and looks sadly at Haruka. “I’m sorry, Haru. I shouldn’t have scared you like that; I just wanted some answers. I just … I know we haven’t known each other for long, but we really connect. It’s so cute watching you learn things, and I really care for you. You’re an awesome friend.”

At Rin calling him ‘cute’ (or more specifically his actions, but he’ll still take it), Haruka feels his face heat up. But before he can even say anything back (or maybe even something stupid like “you’re cute in general”), Kisumi jumps in.

“That’s heart-warming and all, but I need to ask you something.” The seriousness in his voice has lightened up considerably, but not enough for Kisumi to continue smiling. “Is that why you asked if Haru was hiding another identity? To see if he was actually a criminal?”

“Yes,” Rin groans. “It wasn’t the best way to go around it, I know, and no one would answer truthfully to that, but I just wanted answers.” He looks timidly at Haruka. “I’m really sorry, Haru. Can you ever forgive me?”

Well. Now that Haruka knows of Rin’s intentions, he can’t hold it against him. He’d probably do the same thing if he were in Rin’s position. But even if Rin had a totally different reason, Haruka still may forgive him. Call him naïve, but he trusts Rin too much. Rin has shown him so much kindness from the moment they met, and if he can choose to be taken down in anyway, he wants Rin to be the one dealing with him.

Haruka reaches out for Rin’s hand and squeezes it gently. “Of course I do, Rin. You’re my best friend.”

Well, besides Makoto, but Rin doesn’t need to know about him.

The way Rin’s face changes from shock to happiness makes Haruka’s heart flutter. Rin’s so pretty. Haruka can look at him all day.

“Well, this is heart-warming and all,” Kisumi speaks up again, “but you’re staying for lunch, right, Rinrin?”

Rin looks up at Kisumi, but he doesn’t let go of Haruka. “Yeah, of course. What’s on the menu?”

“Haru’s soup, for one,” Kisumi chuckles. “Takeout’s fine too, since you have six hours of work left, and I’m not sure if the soup alone will sustain you till then. I would’ve made something if Hayato wasn’t sick.”

“Don’t worry about it. I can always get a snack in the station,” Rin assures him, standing up and gently pulling Haruka to his feet. He flashes Haruka a smile. “I’d love to taste what Haru made.”

Haruka feels his face flushing and he looks away again.

Kisumi snorts. “Alright. I’ll go set the table.”

“I’ll do it,” Rin says instead, releasing Haruka’s hand when he doesn’t feel him shaking. He flashes Haruka a small proud smile. “Go take care of Hayato. Besides, you might spill the soup on me. I don’t exactly have any spare uniforms lying around.”

“Brat,” Kisumi says affectionately. “Alright. I’ll join you in a bit. Don’t make out too long.”

“Ma—” Rin cuts himself off as Kisumi leaves, his face turning a deep shade of red. “We’re not gonna make out!” he yells after the pink-haired man.

Haruka’s face deepens in colour as image after image of him kissing Rin zips to mind. It also makes his heart squeeze and he places his hand over it. What in the world is this feeling? He has no one to ask, since he’s very sure it’s a mer thing. And while he can just go to the ocean and temporarily change back to a merman and ask Makoto for help, he can’t do that. Not only will breaking away from Rin be near impossible, but going back to the beach where he was found at a time when it’s empty will also be really hard to do.

“Geez,” Rin mutters, scratching the back of his head. He’s pointedly staring at the door, much too hesitant to make eye contact with Haruka. Haruka chances a glance at him and is surprised to see the redness still on his face.

They stay there in silence for a more moments, and while Haruka’s still quite embarrassed with Kisumi’s suggestion, he knows that Rin doesn’t have that much time to spare, so he swallows hard and tentatively tugs on Rin’s sleeve.

Rin looks at Haruka questioningly. “What is it?”

“You should go eat,” Haruka mumbles. “You’re on your lunch break, right? I don’t suppose that lasts very long.”

Rin glances at his watch and sighs. “Yeah. I need to go back in thirty minutes.” He smiles gratefully at Haruka. “Thank you for the reminder. Want me to carry you?”

Haruka shakes his head. “I want to try walking again.”

“Sure,” Rin holds out a hand and Haruka takes it, his grip becoming tight. He helps Haruka the whole way, his smile not dropping once, even when Haruka missteps and almost falls over. “You’re getting better at this,” Rin comments when he and Haruka near the table.

“After eating, Shigino-san helped me walk a bit,” Haruka says.

“See?” Rin laughs, pulling out a chair and helping Haruka sit. “He isn’t bad.”

“I never said he wasn’t.”

“The way you glared at him when I dropped you off was all the answer I needed,” Rin winks, opening one of Kisumi’s cabinets.

Haruka curses internally. He didn’t know he was that obvious. But then again, Haruka did glare at Kisumi just like that, even though Rin was looking right at him.

“Alright, so I guess it’s high time I taste the grub Kisumi spoke so highly of,” Rin laughs, going towards the stove where the pot still stands.

“It’s just soup,” Haruka says weakly.

“But Kisumi likes it,” Rin says, taking the lid off. “He’s picky with his food.” He inhales the soup’s aroma and hums in satisfaction. “Smells great. I’m pretty sure I’m gonna like it too.”

Haruka watches as Rin fetches himself a bowl and ladles some of the soup into it. He finds the utensil drawer easily too, making Haruka frown slightly.

“Where do you know where everything is?” he can’t help but ask. “Does Shigino-san keep his tableware in the same places as you do in your home?”

Rin snorts and sits next to Haruka. “No. I just come here a lot. Since Kiss’ place is so close to the station, I usually drop by for lunch. Dinner too, if I’m not so tired. Kiss even gave me a copy of his house key, so I can come here whenever I want. Him being at work won’t stop me from coming in.”

“Oh,” Haruka mumbles, the surge of possessiveness washing over him again. “I assume Shigino-san has a copy of your house key too?”

“Yup. So does Sousuke, but he barely uses it,” Rin rolls his eyes. “Anyway, time for a taste.”

Haruka watches Rin dip the spoon in the soup and gently blow at it before popping it in his mouth. Anxiety runs in him, though Haruka doesn’t know why. He already knows it’s good, both from Kisumi’s reaction and the gift the Witch gave him, so why is so nervous about Rin’s opinion?

Rin’s eyes light up and he grins at Haruka, though the grin quickly changes to a close-lipped smile. “Haru! This is amazing! What did you put in here?”

Haruka’s shoulders slump in relief at Rin’s words, a small smile creeping on his face. “Just the usual. I added thyme, bay leaves and peppercorn, if that helps.”

Rin’s smile fades as he looks back at Haruka. Haruka’s own smile drops as he swallows. He can do this. He can answer any question or suspicion Rin aims at him. Kisumi isn’t here to help him this time, and even if he is, Haruka needs to know how to make Rin drop the subject.

“Haru …” Rin starts, putting the spoon down and turning his body so that he’s facing Haruka. “Why can you cook?”

Haruka swallows, and he desperately hopes Rin doesn’t notice the bob in his throat. Rin’s eyes are trained on his own, though, and Haruka thinks he’s in the clear. “Remember the cookbook that you found with me?” he asks, choosing to stick to the same lie he told Kisumi. It’s better to have one lie than have several contradicting ones and get found out in the end. “I read it a lot.”

Rin raises a brow. “When did you have time to read it?”

Oh shit, Haruka thinks. “No, I meant … I remembered that I read it a lot before I got my amnesia.” He balls his hands into fists as he continues to think of lies to back up the one he’s currently spouting. “I cooked a lot before, too. I think that’s why the cookbook was so important to me …”

Rin blinks in surprise. “You mean you remembered something?”

Haruka, not trusting himself to speak, nods slowly.

Rin visibly lights up. “That’s great! Guess it’s a good thing you didn’t let me throw away your cookbook. You’ll have your memory back in no time!”

Haruka smiles stiffly. “I hope so.”

“And your necklace is like your cookbook?”

On instinct, Haruka touches his life source, the stone resting gently against his collarbones. “Yes.”

“Okay, cool. So you used to be a chef, I presume?” Rin, now much more relaxed than earlier, goes back to the soup, which Haruka is thankful for.

“I suppose so,” Haruka shrugs. “It all just suddenly came back to me. Well, the recipe for chicken soup, I mean. I’m sure I’ll remember more as time passes.”

Rin snorts. “Remind me to not try and impress you with my mediocre dishes next time, then.”

Haruka chuckles. “Nonsense. I’ll still appreciate it. It’s nice to have someone make food for you.”

“Yeah,” Rin agrees. He stands up and goes to one of Kisumi’s cabinets, pulling out a wrapped loaf of bread before sitting back down. “Sou, Kiss and I were friends since elementary school. So it’s to no one’s surprise that we would go to each other’s houses after school.” He unwraps the loaf, tears out a chunk of bread and dips it in the soup. “I remember our mums would always make extra portions for lunch. It was really nice.”

Haruka just watches Rin stuff the bread in his mouth, suddenly wishing he made more than just soup for Rin. Rin definitely needs the energy to continue working the rest of the day.

Rin swallows and sighs in satisfaction. “We grew up and our friendship never faded. We live close to each other, with Sou and I living the closes to each other. He used to come to my place and make me food, and I would do the same for him, but that was before we both got promoted and couldn’t find the time to cook even for ourselves.”

Rin smiles at Haruka. “I guess all I wanted to say is that it feels nice to make food for someone again. It reminds of the old times.” He pats Haruka’s thigh. “Thanks, Haru. And thanks for the food. It’s really good.”

And Haruka feels awful. He feels absolutely terrible that he’s lying to Rin, but he’s scared of being found out as a merman. It’s better to lie and protect himself. And even if he does get found out, he can always escape back into the sea and live his life out as a human somewhere else.

But, Haruka realises. If he gets found out, there’s a chance that he would be putting the other merpeople in danger. It is very likely that humans will think there’s more than one merperson, and maybe even start to question the existence of other entities. It will definitely lead to the destruction of a whole society, and all because of Haruka’s stupid mistake.

No. No, Haruka will never let anyone find out he’s actually a merman.

Rin catches Haruka staring at him and he flashes him a large smile.

Haruka’s heart squeezes and pounds at the same time.

Especially not Rin.

 

 

 

Rin hums to himself as he drives back to the station. He and Haruka chatted for a while longer, where Rin apologised once again for having accused Haruka of being a criminal. There’s no way Haruka can be one. He’s too innocent, too naïve. And their criminal database shows no records of Haruka (well, so far, at least).

As far as Rin knows, Haruka is, as of now, innocent.

That clears one of Rin’s problem, but another one arises: how to not have Captain Mikoshiba kill him for taking his police car.

Rin chews his lower lip as he thinks of excuses, all of which will result in him getting either demoted or his ass kicked, literally. Captain Mikoshiba is bigger than Sousuke, and altogether stronger, so if Rin gets his ass kicked by him, he wouldn’t be able to feel it for hours.

Just as he’s about to give up and plan a future mourning for his butt, he spots a familiar tiny redhead in the distance, and Rin thanks his lucky stars as he drives towards the person. He rolls the window down and gives a couple honks, startling the redhead.

The redhead looks around in surprise, before he grins brightly. “Officer Rin!”

“Seriously, you and Kiss are the one and same,” Rin sighs, pulling to a stop. “Just call me ‘Rin’, Momo.”

“I can’t do that,” Momotarou laughs. “You’re, like, twenty-seven years older than me.”

“I’m only six years older – stop over-exaggerating it!”

“Yeah, I’ll keep that in mind,” Momotarou sniggers.

“Brat,” Rin smirks. “Anyway, how’s school?”

“Alright,” Momotarou folds his arms, “what do you need help with this time?”

“I took the car during my lunch break,” Rin says, not bothering to beat around the bush. Momotarou can see right through him everytime. “You know how Sei is with using cars for personal use.”

“Yeah, I know,” Momotarou blinks in surprise, as if having realising Rin’s using his assigned police car for the first time. “But why did you? This is the first time I’ve seen you use your police car outside cases and patrols.”

“I had an emergency,” Rin decides to say. Having to rush over to Kisumi’s place to find answers kind of is, he supposes. “It’s about our newest amnesiac. I had to go see him.”

“Oh yeah,” Momotarou nods sympathetically. “Sei niichan told me about him. In that case, I’ll gladly help.”

Rin sighs in relief. “Thanks, Momo.”

“I was actually on my way to the station,” Momotarou says. “Gotta give niichan something. Can you give me a lift?”

“No problem,” Rin presses the master unlock button and Momotarou instantly opens the backdoor seat. He always liked sitting at the back. He can always lie down. “So we’ll just roll with this?” Rin asks, starting to drive again.

“Oh yeah, sure,” Momotarou digs through his bag. “Just tell niichan that I called you to pick me up because I wanted to give him something. Which I also got for you and Officer Sousuke.”

“I’m pretty sure Sousuke told you to call him by his name too,” Rin chuckles, glancing at Momotarou through the rear view mirror. “What is it? Oh, and we’re nearly there.”

“Awesome. You know I’m going to a cooking class, right?” Momotarou beams brightly as he takes out some containers, each containing … something. “I just learned how to make brownies, and I thought they turned out great, so I decided to make some more. I have some for niichan, you, Sousuke, Fireman Kisumi –”

“‘Kisumi’s’ fine,” Rin interrupts as he pulls into the station.

“– and that guy you’re taking care of!”

Rin, in the process of killing the engine, turns back and looks at Momotarou. “You made some for Haru?”

Momotarou, containers in his hands, looks down at the car floor. “I had some extra, and you kinda get sick of eating the same thing for a while, so I decided to give some to him. I feel bad that he lost his memories,” he looks back up at Rin and smiles, “so I wanted him to feel better.”

Oh god. Momotarou is just the sweetest kid. No wonder Captain Mikoshiba adores him. Rin would, too, if he has Momotarou for a brother.

Rin smiles back. “You’re so sweet, Momo. Thanks. I’m sure Haru would appreciate it.”

 

 

 

Haruka hates this.

Around ten minutes after Rin had left, Kisumi had announced that he’s going to bathe Haruka. While Haruka’s grateful at how friendly and accommodating Kisumi has been, the knowledge of someone he doesn’t trust (yet) going to see him naked has Haruka wanting to book it, the inability to walk properly (much less run) be damned.

“You’re gonna be fine, Haru!” Kisumi tries. “It’s like I’m bathing Hayato!”

And Haruka has seen Hayato, understands why Kisumi’s so protective over him – with those large eyes and that cute face, even Haruka’s feeling his heart tug – but it’s definitely not the same as him bathing Hayato. Hayato is so small, while Haruka is … well, he’s not Kisumi-sized, but he’s about Rin-sized, and Rin’s definitely not small.

And Kisumi and Hayato are brothers. They’re obviously close enough to do things like this. Heck, even Ran wants to still do things with Makoto that are sure to raise brows now that she’s older. Though Haruka knows that Makoto feels slightly uncomfortable at having to listen to his younger sister’s demands and scrub her back with the newest shell in her collection.

“Look, I told Rin I’m gonna bathe you,” Kisumi puts his hands on his hips, “and I’m not gonna go back on my word. Now don’t make life any harder and please just strip.”

Haruka knows that he’s one of the most stubborn beings in the world (Makoto can attest to that). But a closer look at Kisumi has Haruka hesitating. Kisumi’s clearly tired and still worried over Hayato, and Haruka’s not making things any easier by refusing Kisumi.

So Haruka sighs and pulls off his shirt, Kisumi smiling tiredly. “Thanks, Haru. You go get in the bathtub – I’ll have to get some towels.”

Honestly, Haruka has to commend Kisumi for being able to carry him all the way to the bathroom despite his constant flailing and demands to be put down. Kisumi had already filled the bath as well, which makes Haruka feel a tiny bit worse for his bad attitude.

So Haruka steadies himself against the wall as he pulls off the loose sweatpants Rin lent him. He just realises he’s still not wearing any underwear, which will be a problem for Kisumi later on, but for now, Haruka makes sure his life source is safe, grits his teeth and steps into the bathtub.

The temperature’s really nice, though. It’s so warm that Haruka sinks into it immediately. Well, he guess he can allow Kisumi to bathe him, just this once. He inhales deeply, blinking slowly as the faint smell of salt hits him.

Salt? Why’s there salt? And where’s that smell coming from?

A sudden pain brings Haruka out of his musings, and he looks down. Only for his eyes to go wide when he sees his scales popping out.

What?

Haruka hitches in a panicked breath as his legs snap and meld together, turning into a shimmering blue colour as the ends of his tail sprout out.

What’s going on?

Haruka starts splashing around in the bathtub, hoping to find answers, and almost instantly, the Witch’s words zip back to mind.

“I am feeling very generous today, young one, as you have piqued my curiosity,” the Witch said. “And so I have decided to grant you two wishes.”

Oh no.

“One,” she held a finger out, “to grant you the knowledge of humans and allow you the conditions to live on land.”

The spaces between his fingers lessen as the webbing regrows, and as Haruka tries to grab the sides of the bathtub to haul himself out, the ribbing on his fingers have grown back and he slips, splashing back into the water.

“And two,” she raised another finger, “to be able to return to your mer self whenever you touch salt water.”

No, no, no. No, this can’t be happening.

It’s with great effort that Haruka manages to bring himself out, crashing to the tile floor helplessly as he panics.

Oh god. Oh god. Rin! Haruka desperately thinks, as he crawls towards the door.

He’s now back to his full merman form, and he definitely cannot allow anyone to see him like this. Haruka slams himself against the door, hearing a shocked cry from the other side. A merperson his size is heavier than the average human, so unless Kisumi’s a bodybuilder (which Haruka really doubts, considering his skinny stature), he’ll be unable to move the door by himself.

“Haru?” he hears Kisumi, followed by banging on the door. “Haru, are you alright? Is everything okay in there?”

“Please go away!” Haruka manages to say, his voice breaking in the end. He’s so scared.

“Haru! Haru, what’s wrong?!”

But Haruka can’t answer. All that’s on his mind is drying himself as quickly as possible. He has no towels nearby, and there’s no hairdryer, so Haruka can’t move. He needs to let himself naturally dry off. He can’t let Kisumi see him. He can’t let anyone see him until he’s back to his human form.

And so, as Kisumi continues to pound his fist against the door and scream Haruka’s name, Haruka just stays there, both wanting and not wanting Rin to be there with him.

Chapter Text

“Maaatsuuuoookaaa …”

That’s the first thing that greets Rin upon entering the station, and the first thing that Rin thinks is oh shit.

Captain Mikoshiba stands in front of him, arms folded and a scarily composed smile on his face. It would have been friendly had it not been for the gritted teeth and vein throbbing in his temple. “Care to explain why I saw your car missing during lunch break?”

Without any hesitation, Rin reaches behind him (well, as best as he can with four containers of brownies in his hands) and pulls Momotarou out in front of him as a shield, hoping that his face alone is enough to stop Captain Mikoshiba’s wrath. Almost instantly, the anger disappears, quickly replaced with confusion.

“Momo?” Captain Mikoshiba blinks. “What are you doing here?”

“I brought you something!” Momotarou thrusts one of the containers out at his brother. “I made some brownies during cooking class, and they turned out pretty great so I made some more. These are for you!”

Captain Mikoshiba’s face lights up as he takes the container. “You didn’t have to …”

“Of course I do, you’re my bro. That and you’d throw a fit if you found out that I made brownies and didn’t give you any,” Momotarou rolls his eyes.

Considering how much Captain Mikoshiba dotes on his younger brother, Rin can definitely picture that.

“I had to call Rin to pick me up, since my bag was kind of heavy, and we went to Kisumi’s place for lunch,” Momotarou lies flawlessly.

“So is that why his car was missing?” Captain Mikoshiba asks, raising a brow at Rin.

“Yup!” Momotarou grins. “I wanted it to be a surprise, so I didn’t call you.”

“You –” Captain Mikoshiba sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. “You really are something, Momo. While I appreciate the gesture, no more doing this, okay? None of the cars here can be used for personal use.”

Momotarou pouts. “Okay.”

“Matsuoka,” Captain Mikoshiba suddenly says, and Rin snaps to attention.

“Yes, Chief?”

“You’re off the hook. But just this once.” Captain Mikoshiba’s eyes narrow. “Don’t do this ever again.”

“Yes, Chief.”

“Good. Come on, Momo.” With a hand on Momotarou’s back, the two brothers walk away, presumably for Captain Mikoshiba to entertain Momotarou for a bit.

Momotarou doesn’t look back, but he brings an arm behind his back and does a thumbs up, which causes Rin to chuckle fondly.

Shaking his head, Rin heads towards his office. He knocks on it twice and presses the handle down, opening the door with a sigh. “Yo,” he greets.

Instead of a greeting back, Sousuke chooses to respond with, “Your paperwork’s a freaking nightmare. But at least it’s done.”

Rin, in the middle of putting the containers on his (now cleaned up) desk, stills. He looks back at Sousuke with a look of incredulity. “You mean you’ve been doing my paperwork this whole time?”

Sousuke furrows his brows, a clear look of ‘duh?’ on his face.

The guilt hits Rin instantly. “Fuck, I’m sorry,” he groans. “I didn’t expect you to do them to the point that you skip lunch. But, here,” he holds out one of the containers, “I bumped into Momo along the way, and he made you some brownies.”

“That kid’s a God-sent gift, I swear,” Sousuke mutters, nearly snatching the container from Rin and prying it open instantly. “If he and Sei ever have a fall out and he runs away, I’m adopting his ass.”

“Yeah, good luck with that,” Rin sniggers. “Last time I check, incest is still looked down upon mostly everywhere. You’d need to go back in time to ancient Japan and be in a royal household.”

“Way to know your stuff. And shut up,” Sousuke lightly kicks Rin, biting down into the brownie. “I don’t like Momo, okay? Why does everyone keep saying that?”

“Because you don’t see what we see,” Rin says wisely.

Sousuke’s frown deepens, his cheeks bulging. Ugh, gross. “Momo’s nice. Sei should take some lessons from him.”

“Dude, everyone here knows you’ve got it bad for Lil’ Mikoshiba,” Rin rolls his eyes. “Even Ai knows, and all he cares about is me.”

“That’s a little egotistical,” Sousuke mutters.

“Hey, you can’t deny that Ai practically becomes a parasite when I’m around,” Rin shrugs. “A cute parasite, but still a parasite.”

Sousuke swallows the brownie. “Ai’s nice. If I could, I’d adopt him too. You know what? I’d adopt some of the rookies here as well.”

“You say that to all the kids who show you a bit of kindness,” Rin rolls his eyes again. “But it’s the first time I’m hearing your desires to adopt Ai.”

“Wouldn’t you want to adopt Ai?” Sousuke raises a brow at Rin. “He looks up to you.”

“Yeah, no shit,” Rin sniggers. “You did say I was egotistical in thinking that. A lot of cadets here look up to you, too, Officer Yamazaki,” he teases.

Sousuke frowns. “I don’t like the tone of your voice.”

“Well, I don’t like your face,” Rin says back.

“I don’t like you. Period. We’re not friends anymore.”

Rin just snorts. “As your non-friend then, I just wanna say thanks for helping with my paperwork. Let’s go out to dinner tonight. My treat.”

Sousuke smiles. “Hey, it was no problem. As long as it helped solve your little amnesiac dilemma.”

Rin stills at that. Oh. Oh shit. He’d totally forgotten about that. He had forgotten that he needed to find another way to house Haruka, since Kisumi’s going back to work tomorrow.

Sousuke’s expression instantly changes to unamusement. “You forgot, didn’t you.”

“Like I said, I’ll think of something!” Rin says as he dashes out of the office before Sousuke can hound him with more questions. He slams the door behind him and bolts for the restroom, laughing shakily. Shit. Sousuke’s going to kill him if he doesn’t come up with anything by the time he returns.

He slows down as he nears Captain Mikoshiba’s office, not wanting to be caught doing something stupid when he was given another chance just minutes before. He peeks in the glass windows and smiles to himself when he sees Momotarou perched on one of his armchairs, animatedly telling Captain Mikoshiba something as the latter laughs.

Seeing the two brothers makes Rin’s own heart throb. He misses his younger sister dearly, but she’s in Australia with his parents. Their annual visit is in a month, but Rin wishes they could visit earlier. He’d love to introduce Haruka to some of the most important people of his lives.

His phone vibrates in his pocket just then, and Rin pulls it out to see an incoming call from Kisumi. Weird. Kisumi’s not one to call him, especially since they saw each other not fifteen minutes ago. Whatever the case, it’s got Rin accepting the call.

“What’s up?”

“Rin.”

Almost instantly, Rin stops walking, just outside the door of his captain’s office. Kisumi has rarely called him by his name alone. It’s usually ‘Rinrin’, or ‘Rinnie’, or even ‘Macchan’ (the latter is when Kisumi’s deliriously drunk), so it has Rin suddenly becoming worried.

“Is something wrong?”

“It’s Haru.” Kisumi’s voice is very low, very quiet. “I need you back here.”

“Wh-what?” Rin nearly yells. “I just got back to the station!”

“I know you did, and I know that Sei’s the absolute devil when it comes to work, and I’m very sorry, but –” A very sharp exhale follows. “Rin, I think Haru’s hurt.”

Rin feels his stomach drop. “What? Why do you think that? What happened?”

“I don’t know,” Kisumi sounds upset. “I was gonna bathe him and I left him in the bathroom to get some towels. I told him to get in the bathtub, since it was already filled with water. And then suddenly, I heard something slam against the bathroom door. I’m not sure, but I think Haru fell over or something.”

Rin blinks. While that warrants an excuse for him to murder Kisumi for allowing Haruka to fall over, that’s not a big enough deal to make Rin go back. “Then help him back up. ’Course, I’m gonna kill you for leaving Haru like that, but –”

“That’s not all,” Kisumi interrupts. “He wouldn’t let me in.”

Rin blinks again. And again, and once more. “Why not?”

Kisumi sighs, clearly frustrated. “I don’t know. I kept banging on the door and shouting for Haru to let me in, but he told me to go away. I think there’s more to Haru falling over.”

Rin swallows. Okay, he needs to go. He needs to go see Haruka and make sure he’s okay, but … “Why do I need to go over there?” he tries. “Aren’t you yourself just fine?”

While Rin wants to drop everything and run back to Kisumi’s house, he did just come back. Captain Mikoshiba is really friendly and fun to hang out with after work hours, but when it comes to work, he’s extremely strict. Except when it comes to paperwork, surprisingly. He might not let Rin leave again.

Kisumi growls exasperatedly. “Rin, I don’t think you remember, but I have my brother to take care of. Hayato’s already asking if Haru’s okay, and I didn’t know how to answer, so I just told him that we shouldn’t disturb Haru. Rin, please. Please come over and take care of Haru. You’re in charge of him, aren’t you?”

Rin stills. He is, but he doesn’t want to face the wrath of Captain Mikoshiba. He’s already made up his mind to go – he’ll sneak out of the office if Captain Mikoshiba denies him permission to leave – but the repercussions …

Rin shakes his head. No, what is he thinking? How selfish is he? The person Captain Mikoshiba had entrusted him to take care of needs him, and all he’s thinking about is saving his own ass. That isn’t what a police officer’s about.

“Kisumi,” Rin says. “I’ll be there in five minutes.”

He doesn’t give Kisumi to say his goodbyes as he ends the call and pockets his phone. He’s right outside Chief Mikoshiba’s office, so he needs to psych himself up right fucking now. Rin squares his shoulders, takes a deep breath, and knocks on the door. He hears Momotarou’s voice stop.

“Chief,” Rin calls out. “It’s Officer Matsuoka.”

“Come in.”

Rin pushes the handle down and the door open, schooling his features into seriousness. He doesn’t even glance at Momotarou, too focused on making his leave a priority. “Chief, permission to leave the station.”

Predictably, Chief Mikoshiba’s brows narrow in both confusion and suspicion. “You’ve just gotten back from your lunch break, Matsuoka. With the car that you’re not supposed to use. Why do you need to leave again?”

“The amnesiac that you’ve left in my care,” Rin pauses, choosing his next words carefully, “needs my help. Chief.”

Chief Mikoshiba blinks in surprise. “He needs your help? Where is he?”

“He’s currently staying over at a friend’s house. I’ve just received a call from my friend, saying that Haru is hurt and that he needs my help.”

“‘Haru’, huh …” Chief Mikoshiba says. “I’m guessing that’s the amnesiac’s name.”

“Yes, Sir. His full name is Nanase Haruka.”

Chief Mikoshiba’s brows go up. “So we’ve finally gotten a name. I’ll tell Nitori to look him up.” He scribbles something down on a book and he tosses the pencil to the desk. “Permission granted, Matsuoka. We need to rehabilitate him as soon as possible.”

Heart nearly jumping out of his chest, Rin nods once. “Thank you, Chief.”

“Oh, and, Matsuoka.”

Rin blinks. “Sir?”

Chief Mikoshiba’s face is grim. “If Nanase is still … hurt even after you tend to him, then I want him in the hospital immediately. I don’t want to lose him.”

I don’t want to lose him too, Rin thinks, though he knows that Chief Mikoshiba doesn’t want to lose a possible victim, whereas Rin doesn’t want to lose Haruka at all. It’s obvious that Chief Mikoshiba wants Haruka unhurt and still alive when he starts the questioning, even though it won’t do him any good since he has amnesia.

Still, Rin nods once. “Yes, Chief.” He leaves the station immediately, breaking into a run once he’s outside. Just the mental image of Haruka gasping in pain has Rin gritting his teeth, a burst of adrenaline forcing him to go faster.

Wait for me, Haru.

 

 

 

Haruka’s now almost fully dried – his fingers are human once again, his tail is completely gone, and his teeth and nails, which he hadn’t even realised had reverted back to their sharpened forms, have shrunk and dulled. The only things remaining are the fading blue scales on his legs, which Haruka tightens his arms around.

When the Witch had said salt water, he had foolishly thought she only meant the ocean. He doesn’t know what kind of salt-like substance was in the water, but it had been enough to trigger his transformation. He was damn lucky that there were no towels and that Kisumi had to get some, otherwise he’d have to explain.

Pulling knees closer to his chest, Haruka stares at the floor. He doesn’t want to reveal his true identity to anyone, and if he has to, he only wants Rin to know. He doesn’t care about Rin’s other friends – only Rin.

He hugs his legs tighter, causing his life source to be pressed against his collarbone. Haruka wants to curse at the damned thing. It’s confusing him once again.

When his body had transformed back, he felt pain in the areas affected, like his legs and fingers. His life source wasn’t hit at all, which made Haruka want to scream in frustration. When exactly does his life source receive and attack hiss body as pain? Is it different underwater? Or is that time where it got slammed in between his and Rin’s bodies the only exception?

A sudden knocking on the door has Haruka burying his face deeper against his kneecaps. He’ll have to think about that some other time. “How many times do I have to tell you to go away, Shigino-san?” he whimpers.

A sigh is heard, followed by Kisumi’s voice. It’s soft, but Haruka can just make out the words, “See? He’s still not budging.”

Silence, followed by knocking again.

Haruka’s starting to despise Kisumi. He just doesn’t know when to give up, does he? “I just want to be alone!” he says louder, almost yelling.

Thank god he had locked the door during the drying process, since he wasn’t sure he’d be able to keep the door shut when he transformed back to his human self. If he hadn’t, Kisumi would’ve barged in a long time ago.

“Haru …”

Haruka’s head whips up, eyes wide as he registers the voice. Rin.

Rin knocks on the door again. “Haru, it’s me. Can you open the door?”

Haruka starts panicking again. What is Rin doing here? Didn’t he go back to work? Does that mean he came back? Why did he come back?

“Rin?” he gasps.

“Please open the door, Haru.” Rin’s voice is very calm, not at all freaking out like Kisumi’s was earlier.

“Why are you here?” Haruka asks.

“I came back because Kisumi called me and told me you were hurt. I was worried, so I ran all the way here.” A slight snort. “Well, it’s not like I could take the car anyway, since I’m not allowed to use it for personal use.”

Haruka feels and hears a slight thump against the door. “Please open the door, Haru,” Rin says, voice soft. “I need to know that you’re safe, that you’re unharmed.”

Haruka’s heart flutters at the gentleness of Rin’s voice and he glances at his legs. The blue is now gone, but when he runs his fingers over his legs, the faint imprint of the scales are still there. He needs to stall for more time.

“I’m safe,” Haruka says.

“I need proof.”

“Isn’t me telling you proof enough?”

“I need to see it to believe it.”

Haruka swallows. Damn. Rin isn’t making it any easier for him.

“Haruka, please,” Rin begs, and Haruka stills.

It’s the first time he’s heard someone call him by his whole name ever since the death of his grandmother. (Rin repeating his name back to him yesterday night does not count.)

Giving one last glance at his legs, Haruka grips the doorknob and forces himself to stand up. It’s hard to do it straight from the floor, but he grits his teeth and ignores the wobbling in his legs. He flips the lock embedded in the handle and opens it a sliver, Rin’s head tilting upwards. So the faint thump he had heard earlier must have been Rin resting his forehead against the door.

Rin carefully looks Haruka up and down as the latter opens the door fully. He’s still naked, but Rin doesn’t seem to care one bit as he breathes a sigh of relief and tugs Haruka towards him. Haruka instantly loses his balance and all but smashes into Rin’s body as the redhead hugs him, his body throbbing with pain when his life source gets squeezed between their bodies.

There it is again, his life source becoming confusing as hell. Does pain only comes to it when bodies are in contact with each other? That can’t be right, since Haruka and Kisumi had touched each other multiple times earlier on and Haruka didn’t feel anything. It must only be on land then, and it’s not like Haruka can ask the Witch for clarification since she comes once every decade, so he has to deal with that theory for now.

“Thank goodness,” Rin breathes into his ear, squeezing tightly. He holds Haruka out at arm’s length and peers worriedly into his eyes. “What happened? I was so worried.”

Haruka glances behind Rin and sees Kisumi. He’s keeping quiet, but the worry in his eyes is very evident. Haruka looks back at Rin and shakes his head slightly. “I was … I had …” he trails off, not knowing how to save his ass this time. What is he supposed to say?

Rin doesn’t say anything, only looking at Haruka. He doesn’t prompt him impatiently or even shake him while screaming you had what?! like what the merfolk tended to do when Haruka wouldn’t elaborate. Rin just stays quiet and waits, as always. But the look in his eyes … it’s like he’s waiting for Haruka to drop dead, but he’s also hoping it won’t happen at the same time. It’s starting to scare Haruka.

And then, it dawns on him.

“The smell of the water …” he says. “I didn’t realise it until later that I’m scared of it.”

Rin leans in closer. “You’re scared of the smell of the bathtub water? What did it smell like?”

He sounds like he’s trying his hardest to sound confused and not at all judgmental. Haruka would have judged whoever the hell out of anyone who’s scared of the smell of water, no matter who it is, and here Rin is, trying to be understanding of … the admittedly odd fear.

“Salt,” Haruka says, a faraway look in his eyes as him turning back into a merman plays in his head. “Reminded me of the place you found me at.”

And Rin’s eyes light up in both understanding and pity. “You’re scared of the ocean,” he says softly, the sentence sounding more like a fact than a question.

Haruka hesitantly nods his head. He’s not scared of the ocean at all – how can he be scared of the place where he lived all his life? – but if it’s to make Rin believe him, then he must continue lying.

“The smell triggered you, huh,” Kisumi says, jolting Haruka back into remembering he’s there. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

“You put in bath salts?” Rin asks, looking back at the pink-haired man.

Bath salts. Of course. That explains it. Haruka chews on his lower lip. Does that mean normal table salt in water will have the same effect on him? And what amount of salt will trigger the transformation? Will a pinch of salt be enough? Whatever the case, he does not want to experiment and find out.

“Of course I do,” Kisumi sighs, folding his arms. “There’s a lot of benefits to bathing in salt water, you know. And it’s not like I can go swim in the ocean every day, so bath salts it is.”

Rin turns back to Haruka, a look of sorry in his eyes. “I wish I knew that earlier,” he murmurs, his hands going down to grip Haruka’s hands. “Then I would’ve told Kisumi.”

“I’ll go prepare another bath,” Kisumi squeezes his way into the bathroom and pulls the plug, the water draining from the tub slowly.

“Oh –” Haruka can’t help but say, feeling guilty that he made him waste so much water. Water’s quite expensive, and even though that’s not a problem for Haruka, water usable for humans is harder to come by, and he’s making Kisumi pay such a hefty bill.

“Don’t worry about it,” Kisumi says, a soft smile on his face. “Money’s nothing compared to one’s fear. I would drain a thousand more salt water-filled bathtubs for you.”

“Not a very wise thing to invest in,” Rin jokes.

“Doubt I can do it, though,” Kisumi snorts. “People’ll either kick me out of their houses or call for you before I can even drain their bathtubs.”

Haruka laughs lightly, and when he looks back at the two friends, he finds them staring at him. His cheeks go red and he hunches his shoulders. Did he sound weird? “Sorry, I just –”

“You laughed,” Rin says, still staring at Haruka in awe. His expression melts to a smile. “You should laugh more. It’s a pretty sound.”

The red in Haruka’s cheeks deepen and he gapes. “Uh – I –” He clears his throat. “Thank you,” he mumbles instead.

Rin’s smile grows wider and ruffles Haruka’s hair. “I have to get back now and report to Sei. Take care of him, okay, Kisumi?”

Kisumi salutes Rin and reaches for Haruka’s arm, gently manoeuvring him back to the now refilling bathtub. “Aye, Cap’n.”

“I’m not captain of anything.”

“Captain of assholes, maybe.”

Rin gently kicks Kisumi’s leg. “Jerk. Don’t hesitate to call me if something happens to Haru.”

“I won’t,” Kisumi promises.

“I’m right here,” Haruka says, not liking how they’re talking as if he’s not even there.

“And in safe hands,” Rin says, slipping back into the soft voice he had used to convince Haruka to stay with Kisumi. He pats Haruka’s head. “I’ll see you soon, okay?”

With a smile, he turns to leave, closing the front door behind him. As he makes his way back to the station, however, his smile drops. That was just too dangerous. He’s glad that Haruka didn’t harm himself to try and get rid of the saltwater on his skin. Rin’s come across some of those types, and it was never pretty.

He hopes that Haruka remembers more important information soon, or he might be losing the amnesiac sooner than he thought.

 

 

 

Rin squares his shoulders again and knocks on Chief Mikoshiba’s office door. He hears a grunt and takes that as him being allowed to enter, so he pushes the handle down. “Chief,” he greets.

Chief Mikoshiba straightens the papers on his desk and leans back on his chair. Momotarou’s nowhere to be found, but that’s not important right now. “Matsuoka,” he says back. “Any reports on the amnesiac?”

“He’s fine. Just had a minor accident. He remembered something, though.”

One of Chief Mikoshiba’s eyebrows perk in interest. “Oh? What is it?”

“He’s scared of the ocean.”

Chief Mikoshiba hums. “Isn’t that where you found him?”

Rin nods. “Yes, Chief.”

“Hmm …” Chief Mikoshiba looks out the window for a while, clearly thinking. “Anything else?”

Rin shakes his head, even though he knows that Chief Mikoshiba isn’t looking at him. “No, Chief.”

Chief Mikoshiba looks back at Rin and nods once. “I see. Back to your office, Matsuoka. A little birdie told me of your numerous paperwork that you have yet to file. I want them finished immediately.”

A vein throbs at Rin’s temple. “Are you sure it isn’t a crow, Chief?”

Chief Mikoshiba snorts and waves Rin away. “Just do your work.”

Rin grins. “Yes, Chief.”

He leaves and makes his way to the small cafeteria, getting a cup of coffee from the coffee machine. The shit’s bland and tastes like, well, shit, but it’s the only kind that can keep him awake, so it’ll have to do. He’s sipping on his coffee when someone bumps into him – not hard to make him spill his drink, but just enough to make him choke.

“Fuck,” he curses, before turning around to see who it is. He sees light blue eyes peering into his and he jolts, coffee splashing over the rim of his Styrofoam cup. “Jesus, Ai! Personal space!”

Aiichirou bows profusely and steps back. “I’m so sorry, Officer Rin!”

“I thought I told you ‘Rin’s’ fine.”

“But I wanted to give you an update on Nanase-san!”

Rin blinks. Oh? “Uh … okay. Lay it on me.”

“We’ve run through the criminal databases of the world, and he’s not found in any of them.”

Rin breathes a sigh of relief. “Oh, thank god.”

“But we don’t have any general records of him in Japan,” Aiichirou continues, eyebrows pulled together in worry. “He might actually be a foreigner, but it’s going to be harder if we looked through records of other countries, since there’s currently a population of seven billion and growing.”

Rin nods slowly and sips from his cup. “You need his spit?”

Aiichirou balks before chuckling slightly. “That’s not necessary, Officer Rin.”

“‘Rin’ alone’s fine.”

“But a hair strand or fingerprint will be sufficient enough.”

Rin nods again. “Sure. I’ll have them by tomorrow.”

Aiichirou grins gratefully. “Thank you very much, Officer Rin!”

“Geez, it’s like I’m gonna get you the autograph of your idol or something,” Rin mutters.

“That’s not necessary, Office Rin!” Aiichirou repeats, though with more enthusiasm. “I already have several of your signatures in my documents!”

Rin stares at Aiichirou like he had grown an extra head. Okay … That’s creepy. “How did you –” He stops and shakes his head. “You know what? I don’t even wanna know.” He hesitates before ruffling Aiichirou’s hair, ignoring how starry-eyed he got. “Good work, kid,” he mutters, before going back to his office.

“G-good work to you too, Officer Rin!” Aiichirou calls after him.

Rin shakes his head. If Aiichirou keeps his creepy behaviour up, Rin might need to transfer to another department to stay away from him. He enters his office, where he’s instantly pounced by Sousuke.

“Where did you go?” Sousuke demands.

Rin frowns and shoves Sousuke away. “I’m not liable to tell you anything when you told Sei about my paperwork,” he snarls, going to his still-flooded desk.

“I had no choice!” Sousuke frowns, closing the door. “Sei came in here to check on my report when he saw your paperwork! I had to tell him!”

“A likely excuse,” Rin mutters bitterly, even though he knows Sousuke’s telling the truth. Sousuke doesn’t like to lie, claiming that it takes too much effort to not only think of one, but to keep supporting it.

Sousuke frowns and crosses his arms. “What crawled up your ass and died?”

Rin sighs, instantly feeling sorry. He doesn’t know where all this bitterness is suddenly coming from. Haruka’s fine, Chief Mikoshiba had let him off the hook twice, and Aiichirou confirmed that Haruka’s not found in any of the criminal databases. In actuality, he should be feeling like he’s on top of the world.

When he was growing up, he developed a habit of latching onto the tiniest bit of negativity and feeding off of it. He could have the best day ever, but the moment something ticked him off (in this case, it’s finding out that Sousuke revealed to Chief Mikoshiba about his unfinished paperwork), no matter how small it may be, and he can become the asshole of assholes to ever asshole.

It’s an old habit of his that he’s been trying to break for years now, but as they say, old habits die hard. It’s just so easy to switch to the next emotion than stay in the current one. But Rin’s working on staying positive, and so far … he’s not doing so well. But hey, progress is progress.

“Nothing, sorry,” he mutters, putting his coffee down on Sousuke’s table because he can’t find space on his desk. “I just …”

Sousuke raises a brow. “The negativity thing again, huh?”

Rin chuckles. “Yeah, that. Been trying to get over it, but, you know …”

Sousuke sighs and claps Rin on the shoulder hard, a sure sign that he’s already forgiven him, but the force of it nearly knocks the breath out of Rin; it’s Sousuke’s way of inflicting a small form of revenge on him for unnecessarily lashing out at him.

“Yeah, s’cool. So where did you go?”

“Had to go over to Kiss’ place,” Rin shrugs his shoulder free. “Haru hurt himself and I had to make sure that he was safe.”

“Was he?”

“Yeah,” Rin nods. “He was about to take a bath when he remembered he was scared of the ocean, and Kiss apparently uses bath salts which helped trigger the memory.”

Sousuke hisses. “What a terrible way to remember a fear.”

Rin’s about to agree when something occurs to him suddenly, his eyes wide as he stares at nothing, the gears in his brain starting to turn.

Sousuke peers at him. “Rin?”

“Sou …” Rin starts, not looking away from where he’s staring at. “Remember where I found Haru?”

“Yeah. At the beach, right?”

Rin looks at his friend. “I did. But … If Haru’s scared of the ocean, then why didn’t he seem to mind it at all when I found him at the beach?”

Chapter Text

At Rin’s words, Sousuke’s brows narrow with suspicion. “What are you trying to say, Rin?”

Rin just looks pointedly at Sousuke, as if the answer is obvious. But his brows are furrowed, and his expression looks as if it’s pained, like he doesn’t want to believe his own words. Sousuke only quirks an eyebrow at him and Rin sighs. “What if he’s lying?” he murmurs.

Sousuke’s brows go up. “You think our amnesiac is lying about being scared of the ocean?”

Rin mumbles something, but Sousuke couldn’t catch what it was.

Sousuke clears his throat. “Rin, listen. What you’re saying is irrational. Why would the guy lie about being scared of the ocean?”

“He has a name, Sousuke.”

“And that’s not the point.” Sousuke folds his arms. “Rin, did the thought of him not knowing that he was scared of the ocean until then not cross your mind?”

Rin looks confusedly at him. “What do you mean?”

“You went to Kisumi’s place for your lunch break, right? You texted me and said that the guy remembered …” Sousuke trails off as he looks skyward. “What was it again?”

“That he cooked?” Rin supplies.

“Exactly,” Sousuke says, in a tone that made Rin think that Sousuke didn’t actually forget and wanted Rin to fill in the blanks for him. “What triggered his memory then?”

“His cookbook,” Rin says dumbly, feeling much like the stupid child in a class not getting the most simplest of problems.

“He told you it just came to him when he got down to it, right?” At Rin’s nod, Sousuke’s face and tone hardens. “So do you think that the guy lied about being able to cook?”

Rin swallows guiltily, a hard lump forming in his throat. Oh god, what was he thinking? Not only did he accuse Haruka of hiding another identity, but of lying as well? Honestly, he’s doing nothing but accuse Haruka when he’s supposed to be helping him.

Rin timidly meets Sousuke’s eyes, whose gaze has softened but his mouth has thinned. “Sorry,” he murmurs.

Sousuke sighs, “It shouldn’t be me you should be apologising to.”

“I know,” Rin groans. Just how many times is he going to fuck up and keep apologising to Haruka? By the looks of it, he’ll have to do it once every hour.

 

 

 

“Ow,” Haruka winces.

Kisumi stops immediately, an apologetic look on his face. “Sorry. Did I pull too hard?”

After Rin had left, Kisumi had prepared another bath for Haruka, this time void of any salts. Haruka was still naked, so he didn’t need to strip. Thankfully, Kisumi didn’t try to or request for him to remove his life source. He must’ve been telling the truth when he told Haruka earlier that he ‘won’t touch his precious jewellery’.

Haruka already wasn’t in the best of moods since his transformation, but it had worsened spectacularly when Kisumi told him that he was going to help him clean his body after he’s done with his hair.

That’s something Haruka isn’t looking forward to.

Haruka starts to nod before Kisumi’s fingers still entangled in his hair stops him from doing so. “Yeah.”

“Sorry,” Kisumi says again, resuming in lathering the shampoo in Haruka’s hair. “It’s just that your hair is so dry that I have to wash it even more thoroughly than I do with Hayato’s or my hair.” He chuckles breathlessly. “I read somewhere that it’s because your scalp doesn’t make enough oil to moisturise your hair, so maybe that’s why.”

Haruka knows that the reason his hair is so dry is because he’s spent his whole life in the ocean, but he’s not going to correct Kisumi.

“Done,” Kisumi announces, pulling back and detaching the shower head from its place on the wall. He rinses his hands off and gestures for Haruka. “Head back, please.”

Haruka tilts his head backwards and feels the gentle spray of water hitting his scalp. He closes his eyes and allows Kisumi to wash his hair out, feeling himself relaxing. The water is so warm and Kisumi’s touch is so gentle that he can fall asleep. The water shuts off a bit too soon for Haruka’s liking, and Kisumi chuckles at the slight pout he receives.

“I’ll be back,” he says, standing up. “Hayato should be up from his nap, and he wants to see you.”

Hayato? That’s Kisumi’s younger brother, right? Haruka doesn’t say anything, allowing Kisumi to leave the bathroom just like that. But it’s fine. He needs some time to think. The door closes and Haruka looks skywards at the ceiling.

Makoto … How is he? Haruka misses him dearly. There’s so many questions he wants to ask him, like if he knows why his life source is acting strange. He also just wants to see him. The Nanases and the Tachibanas had introduced their sons to each other before Makoto could even open his eyes. Haruka only has the slightest remembrance of gently tugging Makoto’s soft brown hair, before his finger was grabbed in a tiny hand.

Haruka loves Makoto with all his heart, and it feels like it’s going to break with every passing minute of not seeing him. But he can’t just go and leave Rin either. Even though he plans to temporarily visit Makoto, not only does he want to drag Rin with him, but he has to steer clear from the ocean to further support his lie.

Haruka sighs heavily. He has to admit, that’s not one of his most well-thought out lies, but it was the only one he could come up with. If it was only Kisumi who managed to see him after he dried out, then Haruka would just stay quiet and not say anything. He knows that Kisumi wouldn’t press him. But since it was Rin, Haruka couldn’t help but think of something.

It didn’t help that the first thing he was thinking of was Makoto during his state of panic.

Haruka jolts slightly when he hears a couple of knocks, followed by the door opening. A large pair of purple eyes peek in and Haruka smiles slightly. “Hayato-kun,” he greets. “Are you feeling better?”

Hayato opens the door wider and bounds in. “Yup! Your soup helped me a lot, Haru niisan!”

Just the name alone has Haruka missing Makoto even more. Makoto had called him that once when they were still little, mistaking Haruka to be his actual older brother. The notion warmed Haruka’s heart, and even when Makoto stopped calling him that the moment he found out they aren’t actually related, he took it upon himself to teach Ren and Ran to call Haruka that.

Haruka’s smile widens. “That’s good. Your brother was worried.”

“Yeah, I know,” Hayato rolls his eyes. “He’s super gross, being all huggy and all. Tell him to stop.”

Haruka chuckles. “I’m sure Shigino-san would be very sad if he heard that.”

“But he’s being so clingy,” Hayato whines, crossing his arms over the rim of the tub and resting his chin on top of them. “He won’t let me do anything. He’s worse than Mum!”

“Well, it’s because both your parents are out of town,” Haruka says, drawing his knees closer to himself as the water’s starting to get cold. “And the reason why he’s being so, er, ‘huggy’ is probably because you’re sick and he wants you to get better.”

“But I’m already alright!” Hayato pouts. “I mean, your soup made me feel better!”

Haruka smiles. “My soup helped you feel better, but the thing that made you feel better is the medicine that Shigino-san bought and gave you.”

Hayato’s pout deepens, obviously bummed that someone’s taking his brother’s side. “Yeah, yeah,” he mumbles.

Haruka chuckles and reaches out, patting Hayato’s hair. He goes to withdraw his hand when he realises it’s wet, but Hayato doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, he leans into the touch, and Haruka’s heart throbs. He’s never realised how much he missed Ren and Ran.

“You’re so nice to me, Haru,” a voice says, and they both look up to see Kisumi wearing a sheepish smile as he peeks in from the doorway. “Making Hayato love me and all.”

Hayato pouts. “It’s not like I don’t love you, niisan.”

Kisumi enters the bathroom and ruffles Hayato’s hair. “Go back to your room, Hayato. You wouldn’t want Haru to get sick.”

As if remembering that illness can be spread, Hayato’s expression changes to a look of horror. “Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry, Haru niisan!” He springs to his feet. “I’ll go now! I hope you don’t get sick!” He rushes out of the bathroom and Kisumi locks the door behind him.

“His sickness is contagious?” Haruka asks.

“Not sure,” Kisumi shrugs. “But I don’t want to risk you getting sick. Rin’s gonna have my ass.” He chuckles and gestures to a bar of soap in his hands. “Now, ready to be soaped?”

Haruka frowns as Kisumi nears him. As much as he wants to say no, he’s sure that Kisumi will hold him down and force him to get soaped, so he just grits his teeth and accept his fate.

 

 

 

It’s been a really long day for Rin, considering he had to go to and fro the police station and Kisumi’s place twice. But he didn’t mind. It’s part of the job descriptions as a police officer, and Haruka’s under his care. Speaking of Haruka, Rin’s shit out of ideas to taking care of him tomorrow. He’s starting to get desperate, and if worse comes to worse, he may have to bring Haruka to the station with him tomorrow like it’s some sort of messed up Bring Your Amnesiac to Work Day.

Captain Mikoshiba definitely would not approve of that.

He had been feeling down ever since he suspected Haruka of lying, and it was quite apparent to Sousuke. So Sousuke had told him that once his work is over, he should go straight to Haruka to tell him whatever he wants to tell him. Rin tried to remind him of the dinner he still owed him but Sousuke told him that Haruka is more important, so the dinner will have to be postponed.

Really, Rin is such a lucky guy to have a friend and partner like Sousuke.

Sighing, Rin reaches Kisumi’s front door, opening it with his copy of the key. He pushes it open and is about to call out to announce his presence when faint laughter reaches his ears. Curious, Rin closes the door behind him and follows the source of the noise, reaching Hayato’s bedroom. Rin notices that the door’s open so he peeks in, his heart melting at the sight.

Haruka’s on the bed with Hayato in his lap, the both of them watching Kisumi tell an animated story. Hayato’s particularly cheerful, laughing at everything, and even though Haruka’s not as noisy as him, the small smile on his face and the way his eyes are trained on Kisumi’s movements are evidence enough that he’s enjoying the story.

The sight, while it makes Rin smile, it’s also causing his heart to squeeze slightly. They look like a happy family, and it’s no wonder. Kisumi’s very friendly, and he warms up to everyone almost immediately. If Kisumi were to court Haruka, it’s very likely that Haruka would accept. The thought of Haruka dating anyone makes Rin’s heart hurt, and he doesn’t know why.

But it’s impossible for him to have feelings for Haruka already. … Right?

The door creaks when he accidentally touches it, and three pairs of eyes whip at him. Haruka visibly lights up and Rin grins. “Hey,” he greets, pushing the door open wider. “Sorry for interrupting.”

“No, no, it’s fine!” Kisumi laughs as Hayato bounces off of Haruka and runs to Rin with a delighted cry of Rin niisan! “I was just telling Hayato and Haru something that happened at work yesterday.”

“Is it family friendly?” Rin teases, cocking an eyebrow at Kisumi.

“What kind of brother do you take me for?” Kisumi jokes back.

Rin rolls his eyes and smiles at Haruka. “Hey, Haru.”

Haruka’s smile softens. “Hi.”

Stunned by how pretty Haruka looks, Rin stares. He’s pretty sure he’s starting to look stupid too, when he feels a tug on his pants. As if breaking out of his trance, he glances down to see Hayato looking worriedly up at him.

“Are you okay, Rin niisan?”

“He’s fine, Hayato,” Kisumi chuckles, and Rin looks up at him. Which he regrets wholeheartedly, seeing the rather smug smirk on his face. “Why don’t you go help Haru with this things?”

Glad to be of help, Hayato grins at Kisumi. “Okay!” He releases Rin and trots over to Haruka, chatting with him as he looks for Haruka’s bag.

Kisumi sidles next to Rin. “You’re drooling.”

“Shut up, I’m not,” Rin scowls, though he wipes his mouth anyway just to be sure.

“I was just kidding,” Kisumi chuckles. “But with the way you looked at Haru … It was like he’s the most beautiful thing in the world.”

Rin sighs and backs away from the door, not wanting either Haruka or Hayato to possibly eavesdrop on them. Kisumi follows suit, swinging the door shut but not all the way, leaving it slightly open. “I don’t know, Kiss …” he groans. “This is totally against protocol. I’m not allowed to be in a relationship with victims, especially those who have amnesia and are currently being searched for in the world’s criminal database.”

“I never said anything about relationships,” Kisumi says, hands up in the air as if surrendering. “I just said that the way you looked at him –”

“You implied that it can turn into something more!” Rin whispers heatedly. “And I can’t do that!” He sighs heavily. “Not to Haru,” he says softly. “It’ll be like I’m taking advantage of him.”

Kisumi’s face softens. “Oh, Rinrin. Are you telling me you have feelings for the guy?”

“I don’t know!” Rin whines. “Probably? This is only the second day since I’ve met him, so I can’t possibly have feelings for him so soon! I mean, this is ridiculous!”

The door pops open and Hayato peers up curiously at the both of them. “What is?”

“How they made the coffee at Rinrin’s station even more bitter,” Kisumi lies flawlessly, patting Hayato’s head. Rin envies that Kisumi has such a younger brother. If he had told the same lie to Gou, she’ll squint suspiciously at him and start firing question after question until she eventually catches him.

Haruka toddles after Hayato, and Rin instantly smiles at the sight of him. “Ready to go?” At Haruka’s wordless nod, Rin takes his hands and helps him to the front door. “Thanks so much for watching over him, Kiss.”

“Not a problem,” Kisumi smiles. “You’re welcome to bring him here anytime, Rinrin. Even when I’m not here.”

Rin grins. “I appreciate that.”

“Bye, Hayato-kun,” Haruka waves at the boy.

“Bye bye, Haru niisan!” Hayato waves enthusiastically at him. “Come again soon!”

Rin turns to Haruka after Kisumi shuts the door. “We’re gonna be walking the whole way back, I’m afraid. Not allowed to use the car.”

“I don’t mind,” Haruka shakes his head. “It’s great practice.”

“Here, let me …”

When he feels Rin’s gentle touch against his elbow, Haruka pulls his arm back. “I’d rather you not.”

Rin purses his lips. “I get that practice is good and all, but I can’t have you falling on me. Not only will Sei have my ass, but I’ll have my own ass. I can’t allow you to hurt yourself.”

Haruka frowns at Rin. “I can handle myself.”

“I didn’t say you can’t. I’m just worried for you.”

“You don’t have to be,” Haruka says, starting his slow walking. “I’m certain Shigino-san told you that I can stand, so I’d like to practice walking by myself. If I need you, I will let you know.”

Rin frowns but obediently backs away. “Alright. But if I see that you need help, I don’t care whether you want it or not – I’m helping you.”

Haruka flashes Rin an annoyed look before focusing back on his legs. “Fine.”

In all honesty, Rin’s glad that Haruka wants to practice walking by himself. It’ll give him time to mull over not only how to properly apologise to Haruka for being suspicious of him (not that Haruka knew about it in the first place, but it’ll still ease Rin’s guilt after he apologises), but also to categorise these growing feelings he has for Haruka.

First things first: what the fuck was he feeling when he saw them after peeking through the door?

It was a painful, unpleasant feeling, definitely not something Rin wants to experience again. He was feeling hurt, and, if he’s being honest, jealous at the idea of Haruka and Kisumi starting a relationship, which will become problematic if he actually catches feelings for Haruka.

Haruka stumbles just then and Rin shoots his arms out to catch Haruka. Haruka looks back just enough to give him a small smile of gratitude, and his slightly dampened face, along with his impossibly sapphire eyes, shining in the moonlight has Rin’s heart squeezing and jumping at the same time.

Rin releases Haruka with a muttered apology, stepping back. He avoids looking at Haruka because what was that?! Does he actually, really, legitimately already have feelings for the amnesiac?

“Rin?” Haruka’s voice breaks him out of his stupor. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” Rin mutters. “Just … tired from today.”

“Oh.” Haruka looks a little downcast. “I’m sorry.”

“No, no!” Rin’s quick to say. Haruka shouldn’t feel bad at all, because it’s Rin’s job to take care of him. Well, not really, but he had taken responsibility, hence it’s now his job. “It’s not your fault, don’t worry! I just had a lot of paperwork to do. It’s really draining, that’s all. I swear.”

When Haruka doesn’t look at him, Rin lightly taps him on the chin with a soft smile. “Hey, chin up. Don’t look sad. I already said it wasn’t your fault.” Haruka peeks at him and it makes Rin’s smile widen. “C’mon, give me a big smile.”

The smile Haruka gives him is a small one, but it’s enough to make Rin want to do something stupid. Like kiss him, for fuck’s sake.

“U-uh,” Rin hurriedly looks around, trying to change the topic at hand. “Let’s go to that bench over there. I need to talk to you.”

Haruka nods and starts to slowly make his way to the bench Rin pointed at. “Alright. Is it important?”

“I guess,” Rin says.

They reach the bench and Rin helps Haruka sit before sitting right next to him, staring at the river in front of them. They both of them don’t talk for a while, and when Rin glanced at Haruka, the latter has his eyes closed and head tilted slightly up, seeming to be relaxing himself. He looks exceptionally pretty, with his long lashes and soft lips, and hair being softly tousled around in the wind –

Rin immediately tears his gaze from him and stares resolutely at the river, certain that his cheeks are a bright red. He’s glad Haruka’s eyes are closed; who knows how he would’ve reacted if he caught Rin staring at him like that.

“S-so, uh,” Rin starts, Haruka opening his eyes and looking at him. Rin clears his throat and plays with his fingers. “I want to, uh, apologise.”

Haruka tilts his head to the side. “What for?”

Rin swallows. “For … thinking you were suspicious.”

“I thought you already apologised for that –”

“No, not that,” Rin interrupts. Fuck, how could he forget that he already suspected Haruka once earlier today? He’s not branding himself to be the best caretaker in the world, is he? Scratch that, he’s not branding himself to be a decent person. “When I went back to the station, I told Sousuke and Sei of your fear of the ocean.”

He thought he saw Haruka tensing, but he just plays it off as his mind playing tricks on him.

“Sei brought up the fact that that was where I found you, and I didn’t notice until I told the same thing to Sousuke. But he had a point, because you’re scared of the ocean but didn’t seem to mind when I found you there.” Rin sighs. “Anyway, I told Sousuke that I suspected you were lying, and he scolded me. He said that your memory could have triggered from the bath and not the ocean itself, since that was where your earliest memory is.”

He chuckles humourlessly. “Which makes total sense, since we’ve had similar cases like that before. So,” he turns to face Haruka, “I’m really, really sorry. I’m sorry for suspecting you, and I’m sorry for thinking you were lying.” He manages to muster a smile. “Will you forgive me?”

 

 

 

Surprised by Rin’s confession, Haruka nods. “Of course. Of course I will. I always will.”

At Rin’s loud exhale of relief, Haruka starts to think. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the cookbook, he would’ve been screwed with the whole ‘fear of water’ thing. And thank god for Yamazaki. But Rin is smart, a little smarter than Haruka expected, which makes him worried that he’ll be found out soon.

He has a feeling Rin will know his true form very soon.

And Haruka’s unsure if he minds, considering he had conflicting feelings whether he wants Rin to know if he’s a merman or not earlier in the day, but he’s unsure of the circumstances that will lead to the revelation.

Will Haruka suddenly transform back due to carelessness? Will Rin find out as an accident? Will it be because Haruka was forced to? Or maybe because he wanted to?

Whatever the case, he knows that seeing his true form will make Rin confused, and possibly (but not very likely) hurt. Hurt from realising that the man he’s been taking care of is living an actual lie.

Rin rests a hand on Haruka’s shoulder and smiles at him. “Ready to go now? I’ve got a full day tomorrow. And I still need to think on how to handle you for tomorrow.”

Haruka agrees and stands up, the two of them walking home. Rin hums softly, and if Haruka wasn’t half-thinking, half-internally panicking, he would be listening.

But no. Right now, Haruka needs answers from Makoto, who knows about the mer a whole lot more than he does, and to get answers from Makoto, he needs to go back to his home. And he can’t do that, not with Rin having to watch over him. It’s exceptionally harder now that Rin thinks he has a fear of the ocean.

He needs to go find Makoto.

And he’ll do it tonight.