Haruka had no idea how it happened. He was used to spending most of his time with Makoto. He was used to Makoto getting him out of the bathtub; he was used to sharing everything with him, from drinks, to clothes or even a bed; and he was used to that warm smile that adorned Makoto’s face most of the time. But it was all changing, and it scared him.
Makoto’s smile was making him feel different. He was often entranced by it, and he realized it took his breath away. Simple things like cooking mackerel for Makoto and sharing food began to feel much more intimate, and he found himself craving that intimacy. Haruka didn’t understand why things he was used to, were feeling so different now. Or rather, he had a pretty good idea why, but he kept denying it to himself.
He wasn’t stupid. He might seem like he was completely oblivious to most things, but far from it. He was just good at keeping a poker face, and good at keeping quiet. So he knew. He knew his feelings for Makoto were turning into something more than simple friendship. Often when they walked side by side, he was overcome by a sudden urge to hold Makoto’s hand; or in the middle of Makoto’s normal chatter, he found himself staring at Makoto’s soft lips wondering what it would feel like if he kissed him; wondering if they would feel as warm and soft as they looked. He didn’t have any of those thoughts about any of his other friends, it was just about Makoto. The difference was quite noticeable for him, though he didn’t realize exactly when had things started to change, and he wished neither did Makoto.
Makoto had always been able to read him like an open book, but Haruka could only hope with all his strength that he wouldn’t notice Haruka’s feelings for him. The thought of him scaring his best friend away for his stupid feelings was unbearable. Makoto was the one person in his life he could always count on; the one person who would never leave his side and would put up with all of Haruka’s strange habits, even if he complained about them. Makoto was always there, so much that he became necessary for Haruka. Losing Makoto would be worse than losing the blood that pulsed through his body, and made his heart beat. Only thinking about it made him feel a hollow in his chest that made it impossible for him to breathe. He wouldn’t lose Makoto, not over this, not over anything. Not if he could help it.
“Here, Haru. Listen to this one!” Makoto said eagerly, holding out one earbud for Haruka to listen to a song with him.
They’d been hanging out at the mall, and stopped at an electronics store. Makoto thought it would be a good chance to check out a present for the twin’s upcoming birthday. He’d been saving up for it for quite some time, so he could afford some little electronic device that supposedly had games and could take pictures (and they would have to share it, of course). Haruka had no idea what it was or how it worked, he was never interested in such things, but Makoto knew what his siblings liked and didn’t need Haruka’s help to find the right present. After buying the gift, they just wandered off to the music devices section where they were at the moment.
Haruka got closer to Makoto and let him put the earbud in place, his heart fluttered a little when Makoto’s hand made contact with his ear. They listened in for a bit, Haruka didn’t recognize the song, but he realized he liked the lyrics. He liked even more the fact that he was listening to a song that had such lyrics with Makoto really close next to him, that feeling of intimacy reappearing and leaving him breathless.
“It’s a love song.” Haruka said, not sure of what to say but thinking he needed to say something to try and escape the sudden atmosphere that surrounded them, even though he didn’t really want to escape it. Looking at Makoto he thought maybe that wasn’t an appropriate thing to say.
“Well… yeah,” Makoto replied, diverting his gaze from Haruka’s, blushing a little “it’s not what I usually listen to, but there’s something about this song that’s just…” He trailed off, unsure of how to finish his sentence, Haruka thought.
“Ah.” Haruka said, looking away to the side. He felt a little uncomfortable because his head was filled with thoughts of kissing Makoto, and he felt inappropriate. Not wanting Makoto to think he was uncomfortable for the wrong reasons, or rather not wanting him to find out the right reasons, he added. “That’s nice.”
Since when did he have such a hard time finding the right words to talk to Makoto? Love was making him a mess. He got a little scared when he realized he had just thought about his feelings for Makoto as love.
Makoto giggled a bit, breaking Haruka out of his little internal conflict, and soothing him with just his laugh. He probably saw right through Haruka’s distress and found it amusing. “We should be on our way now, before it gets too late.”
Haruka complied, and they walked out of the store side by side. He couldn’t help but think that was exactly how he wanted them to always be.
Back at the Tachibana’s house, they were greeted by Makoto’s mother, as usual. What wasn’t usual though, was the twin’s gloom mood. They usually greeted them excitedly, asking to play and throwing themselves at Makoto and him. That wasn’t the case that day, they were both sitting in the couch, frowning.
“Ren, Ran, are you guys ok?” Makoto asked them, patting their heads and sitting in the couch between the two. Haruka stood there in silence, admiring Makoto’s gentleness towards his siblings.
“Onii-chan, it’s not fair!” Ran told him, folding her little arms across her chest. “Mom said she had a surprise for us for our birthday, but she won’t tell us what it is. I want my birthday to be today!”
“Me too!” Ren agreed, still frowning and pouting.
Haruka raised his eyebrows a bit, a little amused. Leave it to Ren and Ran to be upset over such a thing, he thought. Makoto looked at him and chuckled.
“Well, if she told you what the surprise is, it wouldn’t be a surprise anymore now, would it?” Makoto reasoned with a soothing tone, trying to cheer them up. “Besides, it’s only a few days away, they’ll go by fast.”
“But why can’t it be today?!” Ren complained.
Makoto let out a little sigh. “Would an early birthday present calm you down until then?” He asked them, hopeful.
Their mood suddenly brightened visibly, and they were looking at Makoto with twinkling eyes while they replied in unison. “Yes!”
Makoto took the little device he’d bought them out of his pocket, and opened it putting it in his lap. “You’re going to have to share it, but you can play together with this. You can also take pictures, see?” Makoto said, taking a picture of Ran who was looking at him with a cute expression in her face.
“Let me try!” She said, taking the device from Makoto, and snapping a picture of him and Ren, who both looked surprised. Ran giggled. “You look funny!”
“My turn!” Ren beamed while taking the device from her. He turned to Haruka, and before he realized what was going on, Ren took a picture of him. “Ah! I photographed Haru-chan!”
That startled Haruka, and he looked to the side, embarrassed. Makoto looked at the picture Ren had taken and blushed a little with a smile on his face, which made Haruka worry about what kind of expression he had when Ren took that picture of him. He decided to leave, then.
“I’ll be going now.” He announced.
“Do you want me to walk you home?” Makoto asked.
Haruka looked at him, contemplating his offer, but he took notice of Ren and Ran who were still playing around with their gift and probably wanted Makoto to teach them how to use it, so he reluctantly refused.
“No, it’s ok. I’ll see you tomorrow?”
Makoto smiled up at him. “Of course”
Haruka felt his heart flutter happily at the promise, so he turned around and took his leave immediately. This was driving him insane.
Haruka had a problem, a really big problem. Something happened he hadn’t accounted for, he hadn’t seen it coming.
They were at swim practice, and as usual, Makoto and him were the last two left. After his last lap, Makoto was waiting for him at the end of the lane to pull him out of the pool. This was normal, it was routine. But Haruka had been staring at Makoto for too long during swim practice; staring at his muscles in a way that made him feel like Kou. When Makoto was stretching his back, Haruka caught himself staring at him wantonly; glad that he was behind Makoto and he didn’t catch him staring. So when Makoto pulled him out of the pool, Haruka didn’t act normally.
He held onto Makoto’s hand longer than necessary. He wanted to feel his warmth a bit more, and his hand just felt nice; soft but firm around his fingers. He found himself leaning towards Makoto, his eyes locked in their linked hands and he tightened his grip, squeezing Makoto’s hand a little, rubbing his thumb through the back of Makoto’s hand softly; feeling him. Haruka averted his eyes from their hands for a moment, and found Makoto looking at him, surprised and flushed. Just then Haruka realized what he was doing, and released Makoto’s hand abruptly, looking away embarrassed.
“Sorry” He muttered to Makoto and headed for the showers quickly.
Did he really just do that? What the hell was wrong with him? That was dangerous; so very dangerous. Had he made Makoto freak out? It didn’t seem like it, he was merely surprised, so maybe Haruka hadn’t gone as far as he thought he had. Or maybe since Makoto only saw him as a friend, Haruka groping his hand didn’t seem like that big of a deal to him. Maybe to Makoto, it felt like something normal friends did, or at least normal to best friends like they were who practically spent every breathing moment together, and the only reason he was surprised was because Haruka hadn’t done it before, and not because Makoto had realized Haruka’s true intentions.
Haruka turned on the shower and let the water fall on him. That last train of thought made him feel both relieved and heart-broken. Relieved because he hadn’t messed up, not yet anyway, and heart-broken because he just confirmed Makoto didn’t feel the same way about him; he only saw Haruka as his best friend from childhood. That was good because it would keep Makoto oblivious to Haruka’s feelings, and bad because Haruka really did love him.
He felt a lump forming on his throat, and was vaguely aware of Makoto taking a shower next to him. He realized he had been spacing out longer than he thought, because Makoto had gotten into the shower after him but was already finished and heading back towards the locker rooms to change.
“Don’t take too long, Haru.” Makoto reminded him kindly, and Haruka nodded.
He splashed some more water on his face and got out of the shower as well. His mind going numb, he didn’t want to think about his unrequited love. It made him feel empty and he hated it. He focused on the good things instead; on the fact that Makoto was there with him and that was enough. When he entered back into the locker room though, he faced another big problem.
Haruka took his towel and started to dry off his hair. Next to him, Makoto was finishing drying himself up. Since Makoto was facing away from him, Haruka felt at liberty to stare at him; he stared at his naked muscled back and the way it flexed with every movement Makoto made. He felt heat rising to his cheeks. He wanted to touch Makoto’s back; to kiss it.
Makoto wrapped his towel around his waist and started to take off his swimsuit. With the movement, not only his back flexed in a sexy way, but the towel wrapped around his waist stretched closer to his behind, giving Haruka a great view of Makoto’s ass. When Makoto moved to peel off his swimsuit from his other leg, his towel lowered a bit and Haruka could almost see—Oh no!
Haruka had to turn around abruptly, realizing with horror the big problem he had; he had gotten hard. And he was still wearing his swimsuit; which didn’t help cover it at all. He took his towel and held it in front of him, hoping it would provide some cover, but being aware of Makoto’s presence wasn’t helping at all. He needed to get out of there. Fast. So he headed back towards the showers, leaving his towel behind.
“Haru?” Makoto called after him.
“I forgot to wash my hair.” Haru replied in a low voice over his shoulder, refusing to turn to face Makoto.
“No, you didn’t!” Makoto protested. “I saw you wash it. Haru! Now’s not the time to be going in there! It’s late! Haru!”
Haruka ignored him, grateful that his love for water covered up his real reason for going to hide in the showers. He left the water fall into him again, to calm him down and help him hide his little problem. He only hoped Makoto wouldn’t come and get him, but knowing Makoto, he would eventually, so Haruka had to calm down fast. He started taking deep breaths, counting backwards from 100 and eventually the water helped him relax; right on time, because just then, Makoto walked in.
“Haru! We have to go!” Makoto whined holding Haruka’s towel, and Haruka couldn’t help but think of how cute he looked making that face.
He got out of the shower again and got his towel back from Makoto.
“Sorry. Thanks.” He said as he took the towel and walked back towards the locker rooms; Makoto followed him.
Lying down in bed at night, Haruka had a lot to think about. Makoto had made him feel different; hot all over. Only remembering it gave him goosebumps. He wanted to touch himself, his hand lingered over his stomach contemplating, but what good would that be? How would he be able to look at his best friend in the eye after doing that? It was hard enough to face him that afternoon after his little incident. He would have to avoid anything that would put him in that position again. He couldn’t, under any circumstances, face anything similar. He would risk losing Makoto’s friendship, and that was unthinkable. Makoto was everything he needed and more; he was all Haruka wanted.
Haruka also kept thinking about the little things he noticed from Makoto now. Every look that lingered longer than necessary, every gentle smile and every blush had a whole new meaning for him. He couldn’t help but wish all of those things meant something else. That maybe Makoto also thought of him as more than just his best friend, but he dismissed those thoughts faster than they came. Makoto had always been like that, sweet, caring and just perfect. It was Haruka the one who was changing, not Makoto. It were those new found feelings that made him think all of Makoto’s normal displays of affection could be more than what they really were. So he convinced himself that there wasn’t anything else from Makoto’s part, it was just his stupid feelings that made him see things in a different light; things that weren’t really there. Trying to twist Makoto’s actions in what he hoped they were, would only ruin their friendship.
He wouldn’t ask for more. Makoto was his best friend, he had always been there for him and hopefully, he would always be. Things were perfectly fine the way they were, and Haruka would never dare to ruin what they had. He would never risk pushing Makoto away or making things awkward between them. He craved for more, but not if “more” meant their relationship would change for the worst. Hence, he made up his mind.
He would keep enjoying Makoto’s company, loving him in silence, and keeping his feelings a secret for their friendship’s sake. After all, such feelings that would only jeopardize their relationship had to go away eventually… right?
But they didn’t.
Makoto sneaked into Ran’s bedroom at night, and silently took the DS he’d given the twins as an early birthday present. Once he was in his own bedroom, he searched through all the pictures they had taken; of their parents eating, of stray cats in the streets, of the twins and Makoto making funny faces to the one he was looking for: the picture of Haru that Ren had taken the day before.
His Haru was making such an endearing face, looking at the twins affectionately with a rare tiny smile. Makoto treasured that smile, and the fact that he was able to get it in a picture to look at as many times as he’d like to (or at least as many times as he was able to borrow it from Ren and Ran) just made him the happiest guy on Earth. He kissed the picture and drifted-off to sleep looking at Haru’s smiling face.