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chasing the sea

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Kissing Rin is like chasing the sea.

Haru discovers this his second time in Australia, alone with Rin in the evening, leaning against a railing that overlooks the harbor. Rin’s hands, locked on the metal rail, are white with cold. He refused the gloves Haru offered when they left the restaurant. Beneath them, water sloshes endlessly.

Rin’s lips are shiny where he’s licked them. He’s been licking them all evening: in front of terminal one, in his apartment where they stopped to leave Haru’s luggage, over salmon dumplings in the restaurant where Rin had made a reservation. His lips catch the moonlight reflected off of the harbor.

Haru catches them with his mouth. It’s as natural as swimming.

He’s been nervous since the plane lifted off of the runway in Tokyo. It’s a new sensation for him—he isn’t used to feeling anxious. But Rin stirs something in him he’d thought only belonged to water.

His heart is in his stomach. His heart is between Rin’s teeth with his tongue. Is he doing this right? Has Rin thought about this as much as he has, about what will come after, what will happen when they’re in the dark together again without excuses? Will they be rivals there too, or will Rin put aside things like time and simply be with him?

Only Rin gasps and pulls away. His eyes are as large as Haru has ever seen them, although it’s not disgust that has widened them. He’s not repulsed. But Rin is seconds from crying, lips quivering from trying to hold it back.

“Wh—what are you doing?” he says. His eyes brighten as they swell. He covers his mouth, hand waxen in the moonlight.

“You didn’t like it?” Haru says and for the first time that evening, he feels cold.

Behind his hand, Rin shakes his head, and Haru’s heart drops and sinks—another trophy Rin has discarded.

“Oh.”

The world loses focus momentarily and the lights splinter. It’s how he felt the first time Rin moved away and the first time Haru saw him cry, on his knees beside the swimming pool. Haru lists into the railing.

Rin finally blinks. His eyes are running over but he still manages to look furious. “I don’t know what you’re doing, Haru, but this isn’t funny.”

“I wasn’t trying to be funny.”

“Then why would you kiss me?”

“Aren’t we going out?”

Eh?”

Haru is bewildered. He thinks back on the phone call that got him on a plane for eight hours, the dinner Rin can’t afford, the single bed in his apartment they’re going back to. They haven’t made promises to each other, but they’ve shared a future since the first time Rin bobbed up in the adjacent lane. And Rin’s been licking his lips all night.

“You invited me here,” Haru says, trying to make him understand. “You took me to dinner.”

“You…” Rin is crying openly now. He grips the place over his heart. Haru can see his mouth again, the sharp flash of teeth. It hurts to see Rin cry.

“Did you hate it?” Haru asks. It was the first kiss he’d given to anyone and he doesn’t want Rin to give it back.

Rin moves his head slightly. No. No, he doesn’t hate it, but he’s still crying. He sniffs and makes a scornful noise.

“You do everything by instinct.” Rin’s nose is swollen and his words come out congested. “You have to talk about these things, Haru.”

In so many ways, they’re strangers to one another, yet Haru has always been drawn to him, as he’s been drawn to the ocean—the wild, untamable deep that can surround and uplift him, sweep him back to shore where he can plant his feet, and on that shore it spills wave after wave to soothe his ankles. But it can just as quickly bite, turning choppy and formidable, beating into him with white-capped elbows.

He likes that part of Rin, too.

Haru chases the sea with his lips. The second time, he tastes salt and lemon from the sorbet. Rin doesn’t stop crying, but he opens his mouth and he opens his arms and they crash over Haru’s shoulders, just as strong as his.

“Take me home,” Rin whispers.

“Your hands are cold,” Haru says and Rin doesn’t argue when Haru folds one within his, inside his pocket.