Loud shouts and cheers surrounded the three boys as they cheered Makoto on. The medley relay had just begun and Makoto had begun the race well, trying his best to keep up with the other swimmers. He reached the end of the pool and then it was Ikuya's turn. By this point many of the other teams had gained an advantage, leaving Ikuya behind as he reached the end of the pool, Asahi diving in as soon as Ikuya's hand touched the wall. As Asahi was swimming commented;
"I guess everyone's a lot stronger at regionals,"
As this was said, Haru got ready to dive in, waiting for Asahi to return to the wall of the pool. Asahi's hand slapped against the wall and Haru dove in, using powerful strokes to try and catch up to his opponents, however, it was no use as the other teams had gained too much of an advantage. He could faintly hear his teammates shouting his name and he smiled slightly. He reached the wall and pulled the goggles off his eyes, seeing that they had come third. Makoto offered a hand to him and pulled him out of the water, only to pull him, Asahi and Ikuya into a tight hug afterwards.
Later on, the four boys began making their way home, stopping for a bit in a field filled with bright yellow sunflowers. The sun had just begun setting in the sky, casting an orange glow on the four boys faces.
"Crap! We were so close!" Asahi said, frustration clear in his voice
"And we tried so hard..." Makoto added, sounding slightly disappointed
"It wasn't enough," Ikuya glared at the floor as he spoke "More...we have to practice more,"
Haru, upon sensing Ikuya's negative train of thought, gave a small, almost non-existent smile as he said;
"Yeah. Next time," He glanced around at the three stood around him "In next summers tournament, we'll win for sure. The four of us,"
"Yeah!" Asahi agreed, as enthusiastic as ever. "Let's start working for it right now with a training camp!"
"Hang on Asahi! Isn't it too soon for that? Makoto asked whilst laughing at the ever excited redhead.
Ikuya glanced over at Haru, accidentally making eye contact and immediately looking away nervously.
Maybe a training camp, where they spend all day and all night together could help Ikuya to open up to them, Haru thought, after all, they still didn't know an awful lot about the quiet reserved boy.
"What are you talking about Makoto? I'm so pissed off I wanna start training right this minute!" Asahi's loud voice interrupted Haru's train of thought, causing him to focus once more on the conversation happening in front of him, however, he continued looking at Ikuya in interest until the four boys set off again to head home
A couple of days had passed since the tournament and Haru lay on the floor in his house, drifting in and out of sleep as a cool breeze blew in through the open doors. The sun shone brightly into the room, keeping him warm as he lay there
"I...only swim free..." He mumbled in his sleep, much to the amusement of Makoto, Asahi, and Ikuya who now stood in the open doorway, blocking the sun.
"He even says it in his dreams..." Ikuya said in disbelief.
"All right! Let's invade Haru's dreams!" Asahi said with a mischievous voice.
"Can't we just wake him up normally?" Makoto asked, scared of whatever Asahi was planning.
"It'll be fine! I'm just gonna tickle him, like this!" Asahi stated before reaching for Ikuya, digging his fingers slightly into the smaller boys ribs, earning giggles and many protests in response. Makoto attempted to help Ikuya by practically begging Asahi to stop however it did nothing to stop Asahi as he continued his assault on an already breathless Ikuya. The three of them were so distracted that none of them noticed Haru sitting up until he spoke up;
"What are you doing?"
This managed to gain everyone's attention as everyone minus Ikuya looked in Haru's direction, Ikuya instead choosing to keep a watchful eye on Asahi as he covered his sides protectively from the redhead
"Asahi said we should have a training camp," Makoto started to explain.
The three boys sat down to form a square as Asahi asked;
"Remember what we said after the tournament? We're gonna camp at school, just the four of us! I already submitted our request!" Asahi was practically bursting with anticipation as he spoke.
"I got my brother's permission too," Ikuya added as Asahi nodded quickly
It didn't take long to convince Haru to agree t the training camp and Asahi was nearly bouncing where he sat as he could barely contain his excitement.
A few days later, all four boys arrived at school, each carrying multiple bags. They all left their bags in the classroom they would be sleeping in before getting changed and heading out to the pool. They each began by swimming a couple of lengths of the pool in order to warm up before they began the training schedule that Asahi had come up with.
Natsuya sat with Nao, attempting to focus on what he was doing, however, his brain refused to cooperate as he clicked his pen repeatedly, gaining Nao's attention soon enough.
"I heard the four of them are holding a training camp," Nao started as a conversation topic
"Yeah, to prepare for next summer they said," Natsuya replied, now glaring slightly at the piece of paper in front of him
"A little early for that, isn't it?" Nao asked with a smile.
"Better than too late," Natsuya replied halfheartedly
"Want to take them some snacks or something?" Nao asked, not knowing how else to help his friend.
"We don't need to spoil them that much," Natsuya's reply was followed by a small sigh as he went back to clicking his pen.
"So are you going to tell me what's wrong or not?"Nao asked with a knowing smile, causing Natsuya to sigh again before he began talking.
"I'm just a bit worried about Ikuya, he...doesn't do too well sleeping in different places....or just sleeping in general...." Natsuya said reluctantly. Something didn't feel right about telling Nao this but he knew he wouldn't get anything done unless he explains what's wrong.
"So he just doesn't sleep? Or...?" Nao seemed confused and so Natsuya explained further;
"He has nightmares a lot...Usually if he wakes up from one he can't go back to sleep again on his own so he sometimes comes to me and stays with me for the rest of the night...I'm just worried how he's going to deal with it....no doubt he won't tell the others so they won't be able to help him either...."
It went quiet for a minute before Nao reached across the table and grabbed Natsuya's hand before he began to speak
"I think he'll be okay, they all seem to care about each other a lot, if he tells them they wouldn't hesitate to help him, and even if he doesn't tell them, Makoto seems to have a sixth sense for how people are feeling so he'll probably know,"
At this, Natsuya laughed slightly, agreeing with Nao about Makoto's magical ability to sense people's feelings.
"I hope he will be okay...." Natsuya smiled slightly as Nao squeezed his hand gently before saying;
"He'll be fine, I promise you,"
When night time fell, the security guard entered the classroom that all four boys were sat in, saying that he'd be in the security room before he left them on their own.
"Thank you!" Makoto said as the man left
The four of them began watching a video, however, they each began to show how much the day had worn them out through yawns and sleepy expressions.
"Asahi you're falling asleep," Ikuya pointed out, waking the red-haired boy immediately
"I'm awake!" Asahi shouted, as loud as usual.
"We still have reflex training and weight lifting before bed. Then we're starting practice at sunrise," Haru said, reading the schedule that Asahi had handed to each of them
"Isn't that too intense?" Asahi asked grumpily, already longing for his bed
"You're the one who planned this," Ikuya pointed out "This doesn't even make sense, there's not a single break on the schedule,"
"What are you talking about?" Asahi asked in disbelief "If we want to win next summer this is what we have to do," Asahi was interrupted by his stomach rumbling, causing Makoto to laugh slightly
"Let's eat something," He suggested and Asahi was immediately running out of the room to go and get food, the others following shortly after him.
It wasn't long before the four of them were each curled up in their beds, tiredness taking over their minds, making them drift into unconsciousness. Ikuya struggled slightly to get to sleep however, he eventually felt the familiar relaxing feeling of slipping into sleep.
Unfortunately, even here, surrounded by his closest and only friends, the nightmares still plagued Ikuya's dreams, causing him to toss and turn in his sleep restlessly. It only got worse as he was abruptly awoken by his nightmare. He glanced around himself frantically, trying to remember where he was and when he did, he felt his stomach drop with dread
There was no one here that could help him...
He couldn't breathe in the warm classroom and so, he quietly got out of bed, making his way out to the pool and sitting on the side. He put his feet into the water, jumping slightly at the cold water as he began swinging his legs back and forth. He stared up at the star-filled sky, longing to be able to sleep for a night without waking up from a nightmare. He never even remembered what they were about, they usually just involve a shadow that he was running from. It was always the same. And he hated it.
Haru woke up int he middle of the night, rolling over and closing his eyes to go back to sleep when he noticed something was wrong.
Ikuya was gone.
He got out of bed and went to wash his ace, figuring that Ikuya had simply gone to the toilet or to get a drink, however, he realized he had left his towel next to the pool and he had nothing to dry his face with now. He began to make his way outside to the pool, pausing in the changing rooms when he heard the water moving as if someone was in it. He slowly made his way outside, being quiet in case there was someone out here.
The sight that greeted him was not what he had expected.
Ikuya was sat at the poolside, his legs in the water as he stared up at the sky. He hadn't noticed Haru yet but Haru could clearly see the glistening liquid running from the boy's eyes.
Haru began to walk over to the smaller boy, Asking what he was doing when he got close enough, not ignoring the startled flinch from Ikuya
"I'm not doing anything really, just wanted some fresh air," Ikuya lied, not even glancing in Haru's direction in the hope that if he didn't look directly at him, e wouldn't notice the tears that fell steadily from his eyes.
"Ikuya...." Haru trailed off, not knowing what to say. Makoto would know what to do, Haru thought absentmindedly before deciding that he had to say something
"I know that's not the only reason you're out here. You're freezing, how long have you been sat out here?" Haru asked as he touched ikuya's arm gently
"I've only been out here a few minutes," Ikuya replied, his voice weak and quiet, in an attempt to hide it breaking with his crying.
"You're crying," Haru stated before deciding to continue "What's wrong, Ikuya?"
At this, Ikuya looked away from Haru completely, looking back towards the school building
"I'm fine, it's just stupid. You should go back to bed," Ikuya replied, forcing a smile onto his face. Hearing this made Haru's heart wrench slightly. While he wasn't on Makoto's level of empathy, he still felt sad that Ikuya thought that whatever was bothering him was stupid. He wanted the other boy to trust them and to let them help whenever there's something wrong.
"Can I guess what it is?" Haru asked, completely ignoring Ikuya telling him to go back to bed. Ikuya didn't respond and so Haru took it as a yes and began guessing.
"Are you hurt?" Ikuya shook his head "Is it about Natsuya-senpai?" Another shake of the head "Are you upset about something?" Ikuya hesitated before nodding slightly "Did you have a bad dream?" Another hesitant nod "Do you want to talk about it?" Another shake of the head, this time faster, more urgent.
"I'm fine..." Ikuya was cut off by Haru asking
"What can we do to help you?"
Ikuya looked confused for a second.
"There's nothing you can really do, I'll just deal with it myself, I'll be fine," Ikuya insisted
"No, I want to help you, we all want you to be able to trust us," Haru almost pleaded and Ikuya sighed before starting to talk.
"Usually Natsuya helps me but it's kind of weird so you don't have to," He was mumbling shyly and Haru gently grabbed Ikuya's hand in his own
"Tell me," He insisted
"But it's embarrassing," Ikuya refused to look at Haru now.
"Ikuya," Haru said seriously, making the smaller boy look at him in fear. "Tell me," Haru continued in a softer tone of voice.
"I...I can usually get to sleep again if I'm with someone else, Natsuya usually lets me sleep in his bed....."Ikuya refused to meet Haru's eyes as he stared at the rippling water in front of him.
"Come on," Haru said, standing up abruptly, surprising Ikuya who looked up with wide eyes filled with fear.
"W...what? Where are we going?" Ikuya stuttered out
"Back to bed." Haru said simply before adding "Makoto loves cuddles if that's okay?"
Ikuya looked at Haru as if he had gone insane, his eyes wide with fear and confusion as he stared up at the other boy.
"I don't want to wake Makoto up with something stupid though..." Ikuya mumbled
"You know yourself he'd be madder if he found out tomorrow that you didn't wake him up," Haru pointed out and Ikuya contemplated this before reluctantly standing up and allowing Haru to grab his hand and lead him back inside.
Once they were in the classroom again, Haru pulled Ikuya to lie down in between himself and Makoto. Haru gently shook Makoto's shoulder slightly, waiting for the brunette to open his eyes slightly before briefly explaining the situation, leaving out as much detail as possible in case Ikuya didn't want Makoto to know. Makoto simply smiled widely and opened his arms, pulling Ikuya into them gently so that Ikuya's head was resting against his chest.
"Is this okay?" Makoto asked gently as Haru led down behind them, resting an arm over Ikuya's waist so that the smaller boy was cocooned in between the two.
Ikuya nodded slightly;y in response to Makoto's question before a yawn ripped its way out of his mouth. Makoto nuzzled his face into Ikuya's hair and Haru was reminded of what a good parent Makoto would make one day. Ikuya felt sleep pulling him into unconsciousness and for the first time that night, he didn't feel afraid as he slipped into a dreamless sleep.
The feeling of fear returned in the morning however as Ikuya awoke so see Asahi staring over him, waiting for him to wake up. He saw Asahi's grinning face before he felt hands running along his ribs, tickling him and he couldn't help but laugh and squirm, still held in Makoto's arms, who was still asleep.
"Next time, I want cuddles too!" Asahi said as he continued tickling Ikuya who begged for mercy.
"Do you promise not to have a big cuddle pile without me next time?" Asahi asked, his voice as serious as ever. Ikuya seemed to take too long to respond however as Asahi continued tickling him, only to hear a breathless
"Okay...Okay, I promise!" Ikuya yelped as Asahi's tickling assault stopped, instead, the redhead flopped down on top of Ikuya, wrapping his arms around him and refusing to move.
Oh, how Ikuya loved these three idiots.