A Free! Fanfiction
Superposition: the combination of two or more physical states, such as waves, to form a new physical state in accordance with this principle.
Rin had several things to be grateful for, and knew it. Some things to make up for, too, no matter what his friends said. Not many could nearly throw away three best friends, only to have them stand by him and help him through the lowest point of his life. He wasn’t thirteen years old anymore, and he didn’t plan on making the same mistakes.
Besides which – he could admit it now – he’d really missed them all. Haruka, Makoto, and Nagisa. He owed it all to Rei, really, which was why he’d started giving him pointers on butterfly stroke. At first he felt awkward, but Rei was a surprisingly determined pupil; what he lacked in natural talent, he made up with sheer effort. And Haruka had looked first surprised, then pleased, if the tiniest softening of his mouth was anything to go by. Nagisa, easily pleased as ever, seemed happy just to swim together. And Makoto—
Makoto’s green eyes had widened slightly when he first offered to help Rei. Then they’d softened to a smile only Makoto could make. The gentle crinkling of the corners of his eyes, the warm sparkle that spoke of pleasure louder than any words, the slightest curve of his mouth. A patented Makoto smile he hadn’t seen in a long time. And Rin hadn’t been the only one who stared at Makoto when he made that look.
See, most people tended to watch Haru. Couldn’t be helped: Haru stood out. In the water, no one and nothing could be more graceful than Haru. Small wonder Rin had zeroed in on Haru when they were children, when he was looking to assemble the best medley relay team ever. And admittedly, it was Makoto’s proximity to Haru that made Rin initially notice Makoto. Even Nagisa hung all over Haru more than anyone else. But while everyone watched Haru, Haru...
Well, Haru watched Makoto. It was odd to realize this. While everyone was looking at Haru, focused on Haru, Haru’s eyes kept straying back to Makoto, who stood quietly to one side, content to let Haru take the spotlight. That was how Makoto was. Giving, generous, and understanding. Even as children, when they didn’t even know each other very well, Makoto had been the first to notice how obsessed Rin was with medley relay. Makoto had been the very first one to go along with him, and hadn’t even pressed for a reason. Just that it was important to Rin was enough for Makoto. Once Makoto took up his cause, Nagisa was quick to join, and then Haru – and he doubted even Haru himself remembered this now – after Rin made his grand declaration to show him a sight he’d never seen before, Haru had turned his head minutely to glance at Makoto, who gave him an encouraging smile and a nod.
Truthfully, the reason he’d latched onto Haru wasn’t simply because Haru was the best swimmer he knew. Haru represented success. Haru was strong, unaffected, free. No matter what Rin said or did, Haru remained unruffled and perfect, like the imperturbable surface of a beautiful lake. He could throw stones to make tiny ripples, but soon those would smooth back a glassy calm. He could tear into Haru and rage against him because Haru would be fine. He didn’t have to feel guilty like he would with Makoto or Nagisa.
Now that he learned he could, in fact, hurt Haru, and have done so in the past, Rin was more careful. But he’d always had a temper, and the defensive rage built up inside him had years to accumulate. Even now, sometimes, it slipped out despite his efforts to keep it firmly lidded. Not often. But far too frequent for his liking. Rin didn’t want to hurt his friends. If possible, not ever. When it inevitably happened, Rei would flinch minutely, then glare back with redoubled ferocity. Nagisa would stare, wide-eyed, then start talking brightly and quickly, determined to smooth things over. Haru never backed down because Haru never backed down from anything, but Haru’s blue eyes would shutter, like he wasn’t sure if Rin wouldn’t throw a punch while at it, and was automatically bracing for it.
Makoto, though. Whenever Rin lashed out. Makoto’s eyes would grow just a tiny bit wider, lips open and slack. Not in surprise and or hurt, but more like regret. Then his brows would draw in a little, and Makoto’s expression would turn gentler, like the one he wore around little Ran and Ren. Like he badly wanted to reach out and ruffle Rin’s hair, maybe pull him into a hug. Not that Makoto would – that was really a Nagisa thing, and once upon a time, a Rin thing, but never a Makoto thing. (Or a Haru thing, but that went without saying.)
That was the other thing Rin just didn’t get. For all his friendliness, Makoto rarely ever touched others. He’d give Haru a hand to pull him out of the water, and Haru would let him (only Makoto; Rin was watching). But that was about it. The significance of Makoto’s offered hand wasn’t lost to Haru, or to Rin. Maybe even especially not to Rin, since he always watched them and knew Haru only watched Makoto back.
Sometimes – increasingly often lately – it made something clench tightly in his middle.
Rin knew he was important to Haru. Maybe even special. Haru had certainly gone out of his way for him, and more than once. But Haru turned to Makoto with such unshaken, absolute trust, Rin wondered if Makoto really understood what he meant to Haru.
Maybe that was unfair. This was Makoto, after all. Makoto was perceptive and understanding. Surely Makoto knew Haru cared for him and trusted him like no one else.
Even if the thought made him feel cold inside, like a child outside display window at Christmas, forever watching, but never invited.
* * *
That he noticed things like that about his friends didn’t bother him. Anymore. In Australia, it was another thing that used to send him over the edge. The constant snide remarks whenever he found his eyes invariably drawn to muscled backs and strong thighs, firm biceps and sculpted asses. He also knew he hadn’t been the only one who found his eyes fixed more often to the men’s swimming team than women’s. But any affairs were brief and more troublesome than they were worth. Eventually he’d given up on relationships or even flings. That didn’t mean his hormones had taken a similar vacation, however. Whenever his sister blushed at her team, he couldn’t help but wholly sympathize with her. Hell, the first time they properly practiced together, he’d taken good five minutes gawking at Makoto’s abs, then another ten at Makoto’s incredibly beautiful back. One tended not to notice Makoto’s back too much, since his preferred style was backstroke. But damn, in the time they hadn’t seen each other, Makoto had sprouted up. And talk about ripped. Both Nagisa and Rei had beautiful bodies, too, but Makoto’s built frame was the kind one would have found on statues once upon a time, when perfect bodies were worshipped as the works of gods. And Haru...
Rin had spent enough time staring at where Haru’s slender waist melted into hips, and those perfect, firmly muscled thighs, to retain any denial. He wasn’t sure if Haru noticed the same about himself, however. That he looked at Makoto a lot, that was. Especially lately. Which in itself wasn’t unusual for Haru, but the way they lingered over Makoto’s body, heavy as any caress – that was. The funniest part, though. Makoto stared at Haru almost as often as Haru stared at him, but never at the same time. As far as Rin could tell, neither of them had a clue the other stared back. The two of them really irritated him, sometimes.
Which brought him to here and now.
“Oy,” Rin greeted as Makoto stepped out of the water, a casual hand slapping Makoto’s back lightly. It was a friendly enough gesture, right? Guys did that sometimes. “Nice. Your form’s improved,” he commented, fingers still sliding over the muscled ridges of the shoulder blade, and lower.
“Ah, thanks, Rin.” Makoto gave him one of his dazzling smiles, then shook the water out of his hair. “You’ve gotten amazingly fast yourself.”
And Makoto wasn’t noticing Rin’s hand still on the small of his back. Or at least, not finding anything odd about it. “Thanks, I’ve been working on it. My butterfly’s still better than front crawl, though. I need to improve on the stroke speed.”
Cool blue eyes, mesmerizing as water. Just now, they resembled a stormy sea more than a calm lake. “Yo, Haru. Want another race?” Rin asked. Just for the hell of it, he kept his hand where it was, resting over Makoto’s lower back. “I’ll beat you again,” Rin promised, and was intrigued to note Haru’s eyes darken.
“Diving block’s that way.” There was a slight hint of frown on Haru’s face. More interestingly, Haru wasn’t moving toward the diving blocks.
And Makoto, bless him, was looking at them from one to the other, utterly oblivious. “Do you want me to give you the start signal again?” Makoto offered with an indulgent smile.
“Yeah.” Haru’s eyes never left Rin. “Let’s go, Rin.”
“After you,” Rin offered generously. Haru stared at him for another few heartbeats, then abruptly turned away to walk to the diving blocks. Rin let his hand drop the moment Haru turned his back, and tried not to feel too smug. His poor idiot friends were clueless. He really shouldn’t tease them so much. But he hadn’t expected Haru to act possessive. Maybe Haru wasn’t as oblivious as he’d assumed.
Once they hit the water, Haru surprised him by doggedly keeping abreast with him. Maybe if Haru had undergone the same training regimen he would have outdistanced Rin by now. But Haru hadn’t, and couldn’t. Besides, for once Rin was enjoying himself. The water against his body felt more like a caress than a drag, and he could almost feel the water parting for him at his fingertips. Pulling one stroke after another was no longer the struggle it once was.
He hit the wall and broke the surface with a gasp. Next to him, Haru was also gasping for air, hand pressed on the wall. For a moment all he could hear the harsh gasps and roar of blood in his ears.
“Er, you two were so close that... Sorry, I wasn’t using a stopwatch, and I couldn’t tell—”
Makoto. Haru didn’t look up. “Rin hit the wall just before I did,” he said quietly.
Had he? Rin hadn’t noticed. He’d been too focused on the revelation that being in water was once again something he enjoyed. He grinned widely, couldn’t help it. And before, maybe Haru would have turned to him, maybe even congratulated him. Haru had, the first time he lost to Rin. The second time, Haru had looked stunned. This time, Haru didn’t look stunned or unmoved. He was just looking at the wall. Like he was sulking, maybe.
“Good work,” Makoto said, a hand extended to Haru in a gesture repeated so often, it was second nature. Haru took the hand just as automatically, letting Makoto pull him out of the water. A second later, however, Rin blinked in surprise when a hand entered his field of vision. “Both of you,” Makoto said, flashing him a smile, and Rin had to blink, make sure Makoto was indeed offering him a hand like he’d done for Haru only seconds earlier.
“Thanks,” he said, his throat suddenly tight. Makoto had a beautiful hand. Large, strong fingers, with slender but corded muscles. Rin took the proffered hand, and Makoto pulled him up, smooth and effortless, as if he was still the scrawny little kid and didn’t weight a ton what with all the muscles he’d put on since then. The sudden weight of his body outside the water made him sway on his feet, just a little, and he felt Makoto’s hand tighten around his own, keeping him steady.
Makoto's hand was warm. Shockingly warm. Was it because he'd been in water just now?
"Water legs," Rin said weakly, suddenly awkward.
Makoto smiled at him and didn't let go. "Everyone gets that."
Awkward. Seriously. Especially because Makoto still hadn't let go of his hand. Not that Rin was objecting. In fact Makoto's strong fingers around his, palm warm against his own, sent a pleasant jolt through his belly. He could definitely stand more of the same.
The sudden sound Haru let out made him jump. An irritated glance in Haru's direction turned into a startled one: Nagisa had latched onto Haru, and Haru must have squeaked in surprise. Which was unusual. After all, Nagisa tackled Haru practically every day. Usually, Nagisa's sudden attacks didn't get so much as an eyeroll from Haru. But Haru's attention wasn't on Nagisa at all. Haru was looking at Makoto and Rin, and more importantly, their still-joined hands.
Right. He was still holding Makoto's hand. Makoto who was Haru's oldest and best friend before Rin ever came into the picture. The look Haru had on his face reminded Rin of the time his mother gave Gou his favorite stuffed toy. He'd loved Gou from the moment she was born, and it wasn't as if he'd minded sharing anything with her. But the stuffed toy had been his favorite, something he'd had since he was a baby and treasured for years. Seeing it plucked from his bedside and placed on Gou's pillow – he had never forgotten how he felt at that moment.
Rin knew he had to let go. Even if it was like a physical ache, the desire to keep the warmth of Makoto's hand, Makoto's presence, Makoto's attention. He wasn't that much of a bastard and the last thing he needed was to hurt Haru again. Just then, Haru's eyes slid over to meet his own, and Rin swallowed. Let go of Makoto's hand. Leaned back, enough to slide outside Makoto's personal space. "Yo, Rei, wanna work on the butterfly?"
Rei looked taken aback. "You mean, together?"
Rin had offered tips and advices, but they hadn't actually swam together. But hell, Rin wasn't going to let the boy remain the weak link in the chain, not when Rei's team was also his own at heart. "Yeah, together," Rin offered.
Rei considered him for a moment, then nodded. "That's fine."
Rin could feel eyes on his back as he moved away from the group. Nagisa, frankly assessing. Makoto, openly pleased. And Haru...impossible to read.
Rin turned to the water, snapped the elastic band of his goggles at the back of his head, and took a dive.