The sound of chimes.
He opened his eyes.
For a moment the world stood still, in that small room on the second floor of his grandmother's house. Haruka held his breath while life slowly continued to return to his drowsy limbs, as though waiting for the echo to return
It didn't. Instead, somewhere in the distance he could hear the hum of Summer, distant chirping and the subtle sounds of this house coming alive with dawn; without turning his head, Haruka knew there were five to ten more minutes left on his digital alarm. Without moving a muscle in his entire body, he knew he had dreamt of something again.
What had he dreamt of?
He couldn't remember.
Those dreams, they... were not exactly the kind you might call a recurring one; they did not haunt Haruka the way continuous nightmares of falling off high buildings or being chased by your 3rd grade homeroom teacher did. Moreover, what they left in their wake was not a sense of unease or discomfort, but instead a strange, faraway anticipation, like a memory of a life he wasn't sure had ever actually taken place.
The sky, sometimes sunny, sometimes raining. Sometimes the horizon was cloudy and grey.
(If Haruka closed his eyes, he could trace back the sound of his feet hitting the floor board, or the heat of flickering urgency; could remember an effervescent grin, the wind in his hair as he raced down to the landing by the foot of his house, and then––)
Like a distorted feed, his memory always cut off at that moment.
He would wake up. Get dressed. Eat breakfast. Collect his books. Step outside, and find Makoto waiting – day in, day out, as the years passed and blurred together in a stream of forgettable days. He would not stop to think about those dreams, because there was nothing to think; the lingering uneasiness always dissolved, eventually, lost in the haze of comforting redundancy.
But there had never been chimes before.
The alarm eventually went off on Haruka's bedside, all the while he stared ahead and tried to pinpoint the reason why today was different from all the other days that had passed, or would come to pass again.
He tried not to think about this, of course.
So he got dressed. Ate breakfast. Collected his books. Stepped outside. And he didn't–– think, not for the five seconds it took for him to cross over to the stairs anticipating Makoto's familiar figure, to the split second of the morning wind lifting his eyes off the ground.
The clouds in the horizon sailed calmly past weak rays of sunlight, leaving behind a trail of misplaced, warm hues; he remembered thinking about this, somehow, the moment Haruka also understood that today was different from all the other mornings because he had never actually stopped dreaming.
A subdued, almost bashful smile, concealed in a wry grin.
A tentative, calm voice, full of unspoken expectation.
(And while the gaze that suddenly held Haruka's own lacked the naked vivaciousness of his memories, those eyes still glowed with crimson expectation; they made him feel again–– the void of whatever emotion he could not consciously recognize, the one that had always seemed as natural as it was also inevitable. It had nestled itself somewhere deep within Haruka, like phantom pain, always waiting for a day that would never come;
waiting for the day he'd walk through that door, and find Rin.)
Yet as the hesitant air that drifted from the landing next to Makoto's house filled Haruka's senses with sudden alertness, it carried a message only he could hear:
well today your waiting's finally come to an end.
Haruka spent a few additional heartbeats running that thought over in his head, from where it spread forth into his circuitry like a pleasant afterglow. As Rin lifted his chin and tossed Haruka a tiny, laid-back nod, the sensation was so unusual that it robbed him momentarily of his ability to respond, rendering Haruka silent with wide, intense eyes instead.
In the silence that passed between Rin's greeting and Haruka's stare, a gust of wind sneaked into Rin's hair and brushed it over his eyes; almost instinctively, Haruka realized he was reaching out his hand – for what, exactly, even he wasn't sure, because the gesture came to a halt halfway.
(Perhaps it was on reflex; perhaps it was a muscle spasm. Or perhaps, a part of him wanted to pull back the moment, because it seemed pivotal that the scene not end, not before Haruka had the chance to return the words he had secretly rehearsed for years.)
Yet in a matter of seconds Rin turned his head, concealing his expression in the back of his hand, and it made Haruka feel like being cut off a rope.
"Sorry I'm late, I––"
Makoto's voice reached them long before his footsteps did; as he emerged from his house, hastily dragging a school bag in tow, Haruka could almost hear a rift in the air where the scene cracked and shattered at his feet.
There was an abrupt pause once Makoto noticed him. Although Haruka had not so much as moved an inch, Makoto seemed to pick up on the tension in the atmosphere as his voice instantly filled with every ounce of its usual friendliness.
"Oh, good morning, Haru!"
The second greeting bounced off Haruka as though something instinctively repelled by his skin, though.
He didn't mean for it to; it... wasn't Makoto's fault. But it was also of no use, now; Rin's attention had already diverted, caught onto the traces of Makoto's natural warmth like a magnet. It had only taken seconds, but Haruka was too late.
His eyes had never left Rin, but Haruka knew that his window of opportunity was gone.
The afterglow began to wane as swiftly as it had spread throughout his body. It left Haruka with an overflowing sense of detachment, like someone had hung him on a thread in mid air. Whether he returned Rin's words or not did not make a difference now; the spell had broken, the spirits had turned the page on their script – all the while Haruka couldn't help but feel like he was stuck halfway in dream and reality, unable to properly return to either one.
(...He didn't know how that made him feel.
...Somehow, not knowing only made him feel worse.)
Wordlessly, Haruka began to descend down the stairs; he noted the overtly enthusiastic way Makoto rummaged through his school bag while Rin pushed out his arms in a single, lethargic yawn. Now that Haruka could observe both from afar, he also realized that Rin was wearing his Samezuka uniform; it made him think of a hundred questions, each fixed on the inconsistencies he could suddenly pinpoint in the scene before him.
Such as, why was Rin here?
Samezuka was an entire train journey away; it wasn't as if he could have shown up just to take the same route to school. Sure, it was true they had reconciled during the relay a couple of days back, but there must have been an actual reason he was here, at eight o'clock in the morning, waiting outside Makoto's––
(It wasn't quite a puzzle piece, not quite a complete picture, but Haruka felt his eyes widen again as something heavy and uneasy continued to invade the parts of him now devoid of the former, sanguine glow.)
...Was Rin waiting for Makoto all along?
And maybe, there was a sense of solace to how Haruka barely needed to turn his head for a subliminal ping to go off on Makoto's radar, since Makoto quickly sought out his gaze with something akin to sheepishness on his face; Haruka wasn't sure if it made him feel any less uncomfortable, but then, the words tumbled out of Makoto's mouth before Haruka could decide whether hearing the explanation would be an even bigger mistake.
"Rin and I were revising our practice regime charts last night," Makoto offered with an air of forced light-heartedness, as though cautious of the weight of Haruka's stare. Pulling his school bag across the shoulder, Makoto simultaneously gestured at Haruka, as if to subtly remind him that Rin was still present in the conversation. "I mean, the ones Gou-chan dug up were written by him, and it will be Summer break in less than a week, and we figured––"
There was no discernible tone to Haruka's response, nothing specifically out of the ordinary about its bluntness either, yet he could have sworn Makoto literally flinched.
Ever since Makoto had emerged from his house and diffused the scene with the inevitable burden of reality, Rin had done his best to avoid Haruka's direct stare. However, he seemed to come alive anew at Haruka's sudden interjection, shooting him an almost defensive glare.
"I had a free first period this morning, whatever," Rin muttered, snapping back his head.
Something about the adamancy in his voice ignited a familiar trace of irritation in Haruka, who in turn now kept his gaze firmly fixed on Makoto. Lacking all of Rin's former, hesitant awkwardness, this sudden defiance seemed to Haruka almost nonsensical; once more, something unpleasant twisted away within him, as the tone of Rin's voice drained out the final remnants of whatever moment Haruka had still hoped to treasure.
(It made something in his throat tighten, simultaneously rejected and disappointed for reasons he couldn't quite put his finger on; Haruka couldn't tell why he suddenly felt so annoyed with Rin, as though he was ruining something, and god why does he always have to do this––)
"Rin stayed overnight?"
Half-acknowledging, half-ignoring Rin's words, an invisible barrier arose between the two of them like so many times before. It came to Haruka with almost frightening ease, like something inside him was more than used to trying to prove a point with that gesture alone; from the corner of his eye he could sense Rin's hands balling into fists, but Haruka didn't stop to ask himself why the sight gave him a morbid kind of relief.
But although Haruka had forced his expression to remain almost deadpan to throw Rin off track, the slightest flicker of apology in Makoto's eyes revealed that he finally understood what Haruka was getting at – finally caught onto the tension in Haruka's shoulders and the edge in his voice.
(Looking back, maybe it was wrong of Haruka to hold it against Makoto, to treat this silly moment in time like a grave betrayal. But it was here again, that disconcerting wave of emotion that overwhelmed his naturally logical side; all the pleads of Makoto is the captain of our team there was no need to invite me over for input I wouldn't have given anyway went unheeded, because Haruka couldn't focus on anything besides the strange, lingering frustration that Makoto should have known better, should have realized that––)
"Oi, Haru!" Rin finally threw up his arms, sounding exasperated. "I'm right here you know!!"
There was a brief pause, during which Makoto probably realized that Rin was more likely to start punching things before Haruka got over his indignant stubbornness; and so, with all the effortless grace of a natural peacekeeper, he took a deep breath, tilted his head and put on his most disarming smile.
"...Look, I think I forgot something back at my house. Why don't you walk Rin ahead to the train station, Haru?"
It took Haruka by surprise long enough for his exterior to waver; instinctively, he eyed at Rin, who quickly turned his head away with a distinct hmph. Judging by the stifled smile on Makoto's lips, there was probably something fairly hilarious to the moment, but Haruka broke through any needless self-reflection by propelling his feet into motion as he brushed past Rin.
"Fine. Let's go. You'll be late if you don't keep up."
Rin's hasty response sounded a lot like it was accompanied by a grimace, but Haruka allowed the words to hit his back with barely a scratch. "W, wh–– You're the one who's going to be late, idiot!"
The thing about superficial annoyance, though, is that it never holds you in its grip for long; eventually the layers are bound to peel off, transparent as they are futile. And it wasn't that Haruka consciously tried to hold onto his sudden gush of negative emotion, but it felt safer to pave each step down the stairs with mild irritation: it allowed him those moments of serenity, the seconds during which he did not feel like compulsively checking whether Rin still followed.
Everything in life had always been so much easier that way. Never stop, never wonder, never second-guess yourself. If people made him feel bad, he rejected them; if they made him feel at ease, he would allow them to stay. Most of the time he played it by ear, trailing after whichever emotion seemed to pull at him the strongest.
It wasn't so bad, getting through the years like that.
But the problem with Rin had always been that he was capable of making Haruka feel everything all at once; capable of making him want to push and pull simultaneously, like he could never decide whether he was supposed to stay, whether Rin was supposed to leave, and at the end of the day...
(...At the end of the day, what really upset Haruka the most was the fact that he couldn't tell whether he was more frustrated for Rin having ruined the moment, or the fact that Haruka hadn't managed to hold onto it himself.)
But as much as he had already resigned to the inevitable intrusion of reality, stripping away the dreamlike warmth of this morning, Haruka did not anticipate that same reverie to shift in the minutes they spent reaching the roadside. The sun reared its head tentatively in the horizon again, capturing Haruka in its silent cocoon, and just like that he felt as though something transfused in his circuitry.
His footsteps came to a slow halt.
Glancing over his shoulder, he caught a hesitancy on Rin's face that Haruka could trace back to the moment they had last shared alone. It didn't seem out of place, so much as unexpected in the way Rin appeared completely off guard at Haruka's sudden change in mood; whether Haruka was ever meant to witness that look on his face or not, he couldn't say.
The air did not hang heavy between them anymore, but wavered with subdued anticipation.
(It reminded Haruka of the tick of the clock, of drowned screams and a heart elated with resolve.)
As then, as now
as the only way we seem to know how
This time, Rin's voice definitely divulged his uncertainty. Gone was his former combativeness, dissipated like Haruka's own abrupt frustration; and suddenly Haruka could hear the chimes again, as though someone was still hanging onto the turned page of their script with the tip of a finger, clutching onto his window of opportunity with the last of their strength.
Haruka turned to face Rin head-on. This time, when he held Rin's gaze with steadfast eyes, his voice carried the weight of each and every morning he had woken up to find the place next to Makoto vacant.
(It... didn't matter if Rin was only there for Makoto, now; because whether he had ever actually imagined this day coming to pass, Haruka knew but one thing for certain: there was nothing he would have changed or replaced about this strange, disjointed scene for the world, because it was nonetheless real;
real like the tentative tone of Rin's voice, the light flush of colour on his cheeks, real like Rin himself, and
"...Good morning, Rin."
Had he meant to smile?
But Haruka could feel the tug of something warm on the side of his mouth either way, and for once it did not feel intrusive; a dash of colour flushed Rin's cheeks in response, but as he yanked his head to the side, Haruka could tell he still held all of Rin's attention anyway.
(It made him feel accomplished, it made him feel relieved, it made him feel... like they had taken the tiniest step towards the finish line together, as if a fragment of something had come full circle in the years that had winded down to nothing but haphazard dreams.)
(The sanguine glow began to drift back into his spine, but it left a strange, palpable aftertaste; not unpleasant, but unexpected in the way Haruka could suddenly sense life in each fiber of his being.)
"Stop being so damn weird," Rin muttered, still keeping his eyes on the side of the road; for a second he seemed to hesitate, unsure of how to proceed from there, but as he eventually passed Haruka by, Rin shoved at his right shoulder lightly with the palm of his hand.
The groove of Haruka's shoulder where Rin's fingers had touched still felt warm, moments after they had picked up the pace.
They shared the rest of the journey in relative silence.
Haruka wasn't sure if it was coincidental, but there was a sense of nearly conscious absent-mindedness to how they matched each other's speed; every so often their shoulders would brush with one another, which should not have made Haruka pay as much attention as it did.
From the corner of his eye, Haruka kept stealing glances at Rin. In the minutes that followed their cease-fire, Rin's posture had grown calmer again. His gaze was fixed in the horizon as though lost in thought, hands shoved in the pockets of his school uniform; the sun still made his hair gleam, a splash of live wine amidst the monotone of the roadside.
Haruka wished he could have shared that air of placidity. While the atmosphere had considerably lightened the second Haruka let go of his self-indignant frustration, it had also meant casting off their familiar masks of offense; it meant trying not to slip back into the roles they had so comfortably eased into in the past few months, always disguising that which they had both wanted the most.
to share the water you would not yield to anyone else;
to tread these same, nondescript roads side by side;
to feel the spark of that old, azure flame;
to watch his smile lighting up with honest pride;
that's... all you really wanted, wasn't it?
Well, that moment was here now, and Haruka didn't know how or why Rin seemingly found it so easy to adapt to it. Just the thought made Haruka sort of... light-headed, if he allowed him to dwell on it for too long; it felt strange and natural all at once to share this space with Rin after all these years, but he couldn't ignore the thousands of unspoken words still hanging in the space between them, now charged with the static of reality.
Or was it just Haruka?
...Maybe Rin hadn't noticed at all?
(Haruka had never cared much about what people were thinking in his presence, but he suddenly found himself wishing he could have known what went on in Rin's head, just to understand what supposedly left him so at ease.)
It wasn't that there was anything criminally fake to Rin's laidback appearance. Yet it also seemed... strange, to contrast this Rin with the person who could become so easily flustered and volatile with the slightest push – the person who, merely days ago, had broken down and displayed more naked vulnerability than anyone Haruka had ever met in his life.
But then, was this discrepancy so strange? ...For all Haruka knew, Rin was merely doing his best to play it all off, embarrassed that such a scene had ever taken place. After all, both the Rin from his memories and the Rin by his side would feel agitated upon the thought of Haruka lording such weakness over him, like some sort of mental trophy that Rin might never be able to surpass.
It wasn't... like that, of course; but the truth of the matter was that they had both spent so many years trying to conceal their vulnerabilities from one another, that the disguises probably came to Rin like a second skin.
And whose fault is that, really...?
Haruka glanced away, tightening his hold of the strap of his school bag; the vague unease he suddenly felt was tinged with the guilt of remembering his unwarranted rudeness towards Rin earlier.
It made no sense. Why was it so easy for him to approach Rin with disdain, when in reality all he had wanted since this very morning was to reach out and...
Briefly, his pace went out of sync; Rin cast him a curious glance, but Haruka avoided his eyes.
It didn't seem... fair, in a way, for Rin to be so calm when Haruka found himself caught in the crossfire of edginess and tranquility again. It seemed to go in waves, like an endless undulation he could not control around Rin.
Haruka had yet to decide whether this was a good or a bad thing; he hated the troughs, of course, for rendering him speechless and paralyzed with an unnamed fear; but with each low point there were also the crests, and those, oh...
(...If he concentrated, Haruka could still feel the weight of Rin's head on his shoulder in the aftermath of their race, the warmth of his body and the all-encompassing peace it had enveloped him with; could feel the softness of relief, the warmth of absolution, and a tinge of the future, like a promise that he could not quite manifest into words.
All of it had meant more to Haruka than he could quite explain yet.
Somehow, Haruka wished Rin would know this.
Somehow, Haruka also knew these words would probably be some of the hardest to ever admit aloud.)
The silhouette of the train station was already in clear view ahead. The closer they drew to it, the more there was a strange restlessness growing inside of Haruka, as if there was something he still wanted to say to Rin before they parted ways. He wasn't sure exactly what, though; wasn't sure if there was anything at all he could say, to dispel this unexpected uneasiness in the wake of their make-shift truce.
something you want to tell him, or
something you wish he told you,
before the two of you resume fighting and you're left wondering which excuse you can use to see him again?
Twice in his life he had watched Rin screaming in his face, convinced that Haruka didn't care. Twice in his life he had held on with everything he had, but only once he had succeeded.
(...He never wanted there to be a third time, not only because the odds were not necessarily in his favour, but also because the mere memory of Rin's face contorted into genuine despair made Haruka's insides twist into knots.)
There might not come another chance like this anytime soon, a moment cut out of time with just the two of them alone; and while it was so easy to revert into the same patterns, the self-feeding pride and pointless arguments borne out of insecurity, none of that was worth knowing Rin might misunderstand how much Haruka nonetheless wanted him in his life.
You're still my....
Haruka opened his mouth, but found himself at lack of words just as quickly. Why was it so hard to conjure up the unwavering determination, the one that had sent him chasing after Rin in the past? He had broken through the closing window of opportunity before and he could do it again, if he just didn't falter, if he simply believed, if he––
"Hey, you think Makoto's gonna catch up with us any time soon?"
And just like that, there was a lead weight in Haruka's chest; just like that the delicate, glass frames of the moment he had tried to construct splintered in his hands.
By his side, Rin shifted as he scratched the back of his head. The tone of his voice was aloof; if Rin ever noticed the not-so-subtle way that Haruka's entire body tensed up, he sure never remarked on it.
The small smile that sneaked upon Haruka's lips in response was as mirthless as it was unintentional.
Ah, but I
almost.... forgot, didn't I
He forced life into his voice as he turned to Rin.
"You can wait for him if you'd like. I'll go on ahead."
Always a crest, always a trough. How did he not understand this, yet?
(...Because he hadn't forgotten, the swift disillusion that had grasped him the second he realized Rin had not showed up to meet him this morning at all; the disappointment of understanding that the dream he had harbored for all these years was not actually shared by the one person it invariably revolved around; and while Haruka could have sworn he had already come to terms with this in the moments where Rin's steadfast attention had left him feeling sanguine and content, he also couldn't say why it made him feel so... purposeless, now, like a disconnected wire.)
It's alright it's alright it's alright it's alright the water will keep me afloat
Haruka was almost certain his tone had not cracked – no, he was completely certain his voice had held, yet something flickered in Rin's expression, like a sudden alertness that Haruka tried to drown in the hastened pace of his footsteps.
But although Rin had called after him twice this morning alone, no sound accompanied the gentle yet firm tug of Haruka's wrist once Rin grabbed his hand, halting Haruka in his tracks.
"H, hey," came the words, confused and startled; as Haruka glanced up at Rin he realized the expression on Rin's face was oddly alarmed. "That's–– that's not what I meant––"
It took around three seconds of silence for Rin to register what he had done. With a sudden start, he let go of Haruka's wrist, recoiling his fingers as though burnt by Haruka's skin. As he hastily averted his eyes anew, Haruka could but stare back at him.
"––I mean, that's––" Rin stammered, lifting a hand to his mouth as if he could have stopped the words from tumbling out in a convoluted mess, "Makoto didn't–– he didn't agree to a time yet, so I––"
Haruka's voice came out gentler this time; it both did and did not sound like he had intended, which left his chest feeling curiously clouded.
Because something in Rin's sudden, artless flailing was draining Haruka's own anxiety in a matter of heartbeats; it felt familiar, it felt like Rin, and it tugged on the side of Haruka's mouth with a sudden, inexplicable warmth – he could tell the undulations were pulling him under again, but they were pushing him on towards the surface, and the lightness in his fingertips made it difficult to care about anything else.
"For practice, later today," Rin replied with a tilt of his head, like this particular piece of information was the most obvious thing in the world; he still hazarded a suspicious look at Haruka, but it soon softened when no rebuttal came.
"We were planning our joint schedules last night," he went on before hesitating, but the grimace he shot at Haruka likewise dissolved into a wry grin. "...Today's day one of practice, so you better not be late, Haru."
(The final line seemed like a hasty afterthought; yet at the sound of his name on Rin's tongue, a tiny kindling within Haruka ignited anyway.)
"I won't be," Haruka heard himself respond, and as he glanced back at Rin, there was no hesitation in his expression and absolutely no doubt in his heart.
Rin cocked his head with what was probably meant to be an impartial nod, but his stifled grin gave him away. "Alright."
Haruka returned the nod. "Alright."
"Tch–– stop saying alright, idiot!"
"Shut up," Rin snapped, and Haruka realized he didn't even flinch when Rin's hand stretched out to push at his forehead; it did not occur to Haruka until later that it was the third time that morning Rin had used the pretext of exasperation to physically touch him.
Had he stopped to consider this sooner, well, Haruka may have felt more self-aware about the moment he intuitively closed his fingers around Rin's wrist and pulled his hand down; Haruka's thumb lingered on Rin's pulse, and he remarked with honest curiosity how it accelerated once he gave Rin an unintentional, unimpressed smile.
(Because something at the back of his mind was whispering here – locked in the brightness of Rin's eyes, the memory of that effervescent grin, and he couldn't not reach out for it––)
(And maybe Haruka wasn't entirely sure what he wanted to say in the first place, maybe it would be a long while yet before he understood why that wish existed at all; maybe it had to do with the way his heart skipped a beat the moment Rin's sped up like an engine, or maybe it did not, at all; but he wanted to say something, and so what came out was a hybrid of everything he had tried to put into words all morning.)
"Thank you for being my friend."
Rin's face flushed positively scarlet, to the point where Haruka duly wondered if there were satellites in space that suddenly crashed for the sudden disparity on their radar. In a way, it was probably a shame he couldn't speak on behalf of Rin's heart rate, because the hand yanked out of Haruka's grasp the second Rin staggered backwards.
"D, dammit, I told you to stop saying weird things," Rin choked out, eyes aflame with something akin to furious embarrassment. The harshness of his tone didn't intimidate Haruka, though – there was nothing about this scene that made him self-conscious or regretful, because he had meant every word.
Whether Rin had a problem with that or not, well, that was hardly Haruka's issue, was it?
(Alright, so that thought might have been laced with the tiniest inkling of mischievousness, but Rin... could live without that knowledge for a little while longer.)
With a funny, bubbly feeling working its way up his spine, Haruka fought back the urge to divulge this amusement and simply averted his gaze from the still-fuming Rin in a lazy swoop. He nodded towards the station.
"Is that your train?" he calmly stated; in response, Rin's head wrenched in the direction of his gaze with enough vigor to look like it hurt, still caught in the adrenaline of his embarrassment.
"Shit shit shit shit shit," was the only answer Rin rewarded him with; turning on his heels, Rin wasted no second thought in sprinting off with unceremonious grace, sending tiny pebbles flying in the air like something out of a cartoon.
In any other situation Haruka might have felt dejected that Rin did not so much as bid him goodbye, but watching him break every speed record in his attempt to close the two hundred yards to the station was also comical enough for Haruka to not really care.
He stood there waiting for nothing in particular, for a good while after.
It wasn't until Makoto eventually caught up with him that Haruka remembered their former exchange, bringing back another wave of guilty conscience for the way he had treated his best friend before.
"...Sorry," he breathed out, but Makoto only let out a light chuckle; he waved his hand in the air as though trying to dispel Haruka's concern as inconsequential. (To be fair, it probably was; it was only lately that Haruka had begun to understand that Makoto probably cared less about what he was apologizing for, and more for the fact that he bothered to apologize at all.)
"Got everything out of your system?" Makoto simply remarked with a smile; there was a glimpse of something Haruka couldn't quite place in his voice, but before he could comment on it, Makoto pressed the palms of his hands against Haruka's shoulders, propelling him back into motion towards the direction of their school.
Once they resumed a steady pace, Makoto opened his mouth again as though to say something; he paused, though, holding his tongue, then gave Haruka a quizzical smile.
"I bet Rin didn't tell you it was his idea."
As much as Haruka tried to keep his tone neutral, he couldn't help the sidelong glance at Makoto. "What?"
"Joint practice. Staying over. All of it." Makoto paused again, and when he spoke, his voice was warmer than Haruka remembered having heard in years. "...I think he wanted to be there at daybreak. To see you."
For what felt like the hundredth time today, Haruka's footsteps came to a halt.
(And that's... all it took, really;
to lift his heart afloat, to set his spirit engulfed by the familiar, old azure flame;
and as Haruka stared at the horizon before him, he could still hear the chimes;
your dream has finally turned to reality
and now what do you do?)