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Those Three Words

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"What's the English word for 'saba'?"

Rin looked up from his book and raised an eyebrow. "Why the fuck do you need to know that?"

"I'm writing this stupid essay for English. We have to describe our day."

The red-haired boy rolled his eyes. "Why don't you use a fucking dictionary, like everyone else?," he muttered.

"Because I have you sitting right there, reading a book in English."

Rin sighed. "'Saba' is 'mackerel,'" he groaned.

"How do you spell that?"

"M-A-C-K-E-R-E-L. Now would you please shut up? I'm trying to concentrate." He adjusted his glasses a little and settled into the floor cushions a little more.

"Is that for a class?"

"Huh?"

"That book. Is it for a class?"

"No. I'm just reading it."

"You read books in English for fun?"

Rin shrugged. "If they're interesting. This one's about swimming. A lot of the Australian trainers use it."

Haru looked at him for a long moment, then turned back to the paper in front of him. "…You're sitting over there reading a whole stupid book, and I can't even translate a single sentence by myself."

"Well, it's not like I had much of a choice," Rin muttered in annoyance. "I had to learn English. Australian schools don't exactly print shit in Japanese."

"Still. I should just have you do my homework for me."

"Yeah right!," Rin protested. "Like I don't have enough homework of my own." He went back to reading his book, and Haru reluctantly started writing again. For a while, the room was peacefully silent; the only sounds were the light rustle of pages turning, and the soft scratch of pencil on paper.

"Hey, can you correct this?"

Rin sighed, but he got up from his place on the floor. "Fine, fine. Give it here." He sat down next to Haru and grabbed the piece of paper, holding it up so that he could read it better. It only took him a second to find a problem.

"This is supposed to be about your day, right?," he asked. "Like, what you did, in the past?"

"…Yeah…"

"Then why'd you write 'I eat mackerel for breakfast'?"

"Because I did."

Rin sighed. "Haru, it's 'ate,' not 'eat.'" He scanned down a little further and noticed that none of the verbs were correctly conjugated. "…You used present tense for the entire fucking essay."

"Oh."

"And what the fuck is this supposed to mean? 'I swim the pool, water is cold?'"

"I was going for 'I swam in the pool, even though the water was still cold.'"

Rin laughed. "Oh god, you're seriously hopeless. Here." He leaned over Haru to grab a pencil. "This is what you wanted," he said, writing the sentence out. "'I swam, in the pool, even though the water was still cold.'"

"Oh." Haru looked at it for a moment before pointing to the paper. "…Say this again?"

Rin sighed. "I swam…in the pool…even though…the water was still cold," he repeated, slowing down his pronunciation and pointing to each word as he said it.

"I swam…in the pool…even though…the water was still cold," Haru repeated carefully. His English was so accented that it was barely recognizable.

Rin smiled and shook his head. "I hope this isn't an oral assignment."

"You're a jerk."

Rin shrugged. "Everything else looks fine, just change the verbs to past tense."

"This is so useless," Haru muttered as he started erasing some of the words on the paper. "It's not like I'm ever going to need this."

"Quit whining, you big baby."

Haru threw his pencil at Rin's arm, and the red-haired boy turned with a growl when he felt it jab him in the bicep. He playfully launched himself at Haru, knocking the black-haired boy off his cushion and down onto the floor.

"Ow, you ass," Haru muttered, a competitive glint sparking in his eye. He lunged back at Rin, trying to wrestle the red-haired boy to the ground.

"Yeah, like that's gonna work." Rin got a hold of Haru's upper arms and easily pinned him to the ground. "You know I'm stronger than you," he said with a smirk. "Always have been." Haru's eyes narrowed, and with a final burst of determination, he shoved Rin off, flipping the red-haired boy onto his back and pinning him in a similar way.

"Yeah, but don't forget: I'm the one who always come out on top." He leaned in and gave the corner of Rin's mouth a little nip, a light chastisement. Then, his smirking lips moved passionately to Rin's, and the fighting tension in Rin's body soon evaporated. It was almost frightening, how fast the black-haired boy could make him melt into a puddle. He closed his eyes and fell into Haru's tender, biting kisses, his back arching imperceptibly against the floor. After a few long moments, Haru pulled away, with a final longing nip to Rin's lower lip.

"Now, I have to finish my essay," the black-haired boy said, eyes glowing. "Don't bug me."

Rin was still trying to catch his breath, so it was a bit difficult for him to come up with a retort. "Fine," he murmured, looking up into Haru's eyes. "Finish your stupid essay." The black-haired boy moved back onto his cushion and retrieved his pencil from its position on the floor. Rin remained on his back, still caught up in the exhilarating feeling of Haru pinning him to the ground. He closed his eyes, his heart reeling with giddy butterflies.

"Hey, what's the past tense of 'run'? It's 'ran,' right?"

Rin opened his eyes and took a breath, to bring himself back to Earth. "Um…yeah. 'Ran.'" He heard the scratching of Haru's pencil, and he shut his eyes again. God, I want you right now, he sighed to himself.

"What?"

Rin's eyes flew open, when he realized that the words had actually slipped out of his mouth. "Nothing," he said quickly. Haru set his pencil down, glancing sideways at Rin with smirking eyes.

"Why are you still lying there?"

"It's…comfortable," Rin muttered, turning a little red.

This seemed to give Haru an idea. "…Do you ever feel like sleeping on the floor?," he murmured.

"What?" Rin was caught off-guard. "Uh…no, not really…"

"It's really comfortable," Haru said. "More comfortable than the bed, sometimes." He looked into Rin's eyes. "I want to sleep on the floor tonight."

Rin sighed. "Whatever, weirdo. I guess I'll sleep on the floor with you."

Haru moved to pick up his pencil, but after a moment's pause, he set it down again. "I'll finish this tomorrow," he said as he stood up. "Let's go to bed now." He walked toward the doorway and took a left, heading in the direction of his bedroom. "You coming or what?," he called from the stairs.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm coming," Rin muttered, hauling himself up off the floor. He padded up the stairs to Haru's room, where the black-haired boy was already creating a nest of blankets on the floor. He'd pulled the sheets and comforter from the bed and laid them out to create a comfy-looking pile next to his empty mattress.

"Lay down," he murmured as he stripped off his shirt and tossed it carelessly aside.

"What about pillows?," Rin muttered. His question was answered by a pillow to the face.

"I was getting there. I know you can't sleep without your precious pillows."

"Oh, shut up," Rin said, smacking Haru's ass with the pillow he now held in his hands. "You're a dick."

Haru turned around and quietly laid his hands on Rin's hips. "Yeah, I know," he said with an almost imperceptible smirk. "But so are you." He delivered a tender kiss to Rin's unsuspecting lips, and the red-haired boy's cheeks flushed an embarrassing pink at the unexpected intimacy. After a moment, he pulled away and went back to setting up the makeshift bed. He threw a few more pillows onto the floor before stripping down to his boxers and burrowing into the comforter. Rin quickly followed suit, rolling off his tank top and throwing it aside. He crawled into bed beside Haru and took the black-haired boy into his arms. The floor was surprisingly comfortable, with all the blankets and things: more spacious than the bed, too. He didn't mind at all, lying there on the floor with Haru.

"Say something to me in English," the black-haired boy murmured softly.

"Why?"

"Just do it."

"What do you want me to say?"

"I don't know, just talk. Say whatever you want."

Rin hesitated a moment before deciding that this was the perfect opportunity for a little experiment, one that he'd been thinking about for quite some time. Usually, when Haru asked him to speak English, he'd just describe their surroundings or something equally dull. But if this worked…he'd finally be able to say what he wanted to say, without really having to say it at all. He could let everything out, and confess the way he felt. The thought of it made him a little nervous, even though he was almost positive that Haru wouldn't understand. He just had to make damn sure that he only used words that Haru didn't know.

"I have a lot of things I want to say, but…I'm embarrassed to say them," he began in English. "I might be able to say them in English, though, since you hardly understand a word of it. Sometimes, I want to say something so badly…it feels like I'm going to explode. But I'm afraid of what you'll think. I'm afraid…it might be too much. It's not easy for me to say this kind of stuff to you." He paused for a moment before switching back to Japanese. "…Did you get any of that?"

"…I understood 'English' and 'say.'"

Perfect, Rin thought with a little smile. He went back to English again. "Well, in that case, I'll go ahead and say it," he said. "You're my favorite, and I just...love the shit out of you."

A moment of silence fell.

"…Did you just call me a piece of shit?"

Rin burst out laughing. "No, I didn't," he snickered, switching back to Japanese. "That's not what I said, at all." He couldn't stop himself from cracking up. "Why are swear words the only words you know?," he snorted.

"Because half the time, you swear in English," Haru retorted with a sour look. "And you swear a lot." He sat up and turned his head away in a feigned huff when Rin couldn't stop laughing at him. "You're an asshole," he muttered. "Why do I put up with you?"

"I'm just messing with you," Rin said, finally getting his chuckling under control. "You know that." When Haru didn't reply for a minute, he started to get a little nervous. "Come on, you know I'm kidding," he said. "…Right?"

Haru remained silent.

"…Aw, come on Haru, don't be a baby."

Still no response.

"…Damn it, Haru, don't be like this." He tried to hold off, knowing that Haru was just trying to make him squirm, but it was no use. Haru knew exactly how to push his buttons.  "Fuck damn it, Haru," he muttered as he reluctantly put his arms around the black-haired boy's waist. "I didn't mean it, and you know it." He gave Haru's neck a little kiss, and then another, a little higher up. "Don't be like this," he murmured. "Come on." Still, Haru held firm, making Rin's insides clench up with anxiety. "Haru, come on," he pleaded softly, a hint of a whine creeping into his voice. "Please say something." He felt tears coming to his eyes, but he was never in a million years going to let them fall. He pressed his lips softly into Haru's neck again and squeezed the black-haired boy a little tighter. "I'm sorry," he said quietly. "Ok? I'm sorry for making fun of your English."

Finally, Haru turned his head a little to look at him. "…Are you crying?," he asked softly.

"No," Rin snapped, his teary eyes narrowing.

Slowly, Haru turned and embraced his red-haired boyfriend, burying his face in Rin's shoulder. "Don't be such an ass," he murmured, his version of an apology. Rin cuddled into him, still trying to reassure himself that Haru wasn't really pissed. He felt his skin flush, when Haru's lips landed gently on his forehead. "Now who's taking things too seriously?," the black-haired boy murmured, a quiet little smile in his voice. "Hm?"

"Shut up," Rin muttered. His eyes closed gently, when he felt Haru's lips press against his, and he sighed into Haru's mouth as they shared a kiss. He needed Haru so badly…he felt it even more, when they were close like this. Without Haru…the world would have no meaning, and that scared him to death. If Haru ever found that out…

His thoughts were interrupted by Haru's gentle, loving lips. "Let's just go to sleep," the black-haired boy murmured. Rin laid down, and Haru pulled him to his chest.

"You don't know how badly I need you," Rin murmured, quickly and in English so that Haru wouldn't understand. "You don't have any fucking clue." He felt as though this feeling would burst inside him, if he didn't let it out in words. He cuddled into Haru, and the black-haired boy curled around him, kissing the shell of his exposed ear.

"Don't have any nightmares tonight, ok?"

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The next morning, Rin awoke to the smell of eggs and mackerel. He groggily opened his eyes and saw that the black-haired boy had already left their blanket nest. Stretching, he yawned, and rubbed his eye with his hand. He always slept a little better, when he slept over at Haru's.

He decided to stay on the floor for a little bit longer. If he was lucky, Haru would bring him breakfast. He curled up against a pillow and closed his eyes, hugging it to his cheek. Haru's room was always so quiet in the mornings: so light, and peaceful.

He must have dozed off again, because the next thing he knew, there was a foot nudging at his back. "Get up," Haru was murmuring as he stepped gently on Rin's side. The red-haired boy let out an exaggerated groan as Haru's foot started moving faster, rocking Rin's whole body back and forth.

"I'm up, I'm up," he moaned. "Cut it out."

"Your food's going to get cold."

"So why don't you bring it up here?" Rin rolled over and saw that Haru was wearing a blue apron over his boxers.

"Do I look like your maid?"

"No, stupid, I meant, we could eat up here together. Haven't you ever heard of breakfast in bed?"

"Of course I've heard of it," Haru muttered indignantly. "Stupid." He gave Rin's arm a gentle little kick. "I guess if you're really that lazy, I'll bring it up here."

Rin responded with a cocky smile. "I'd starve without you," he said sarcastically. Haru shook his head in mock annoyance and turned to go back downstairs. In a few minutes, he came back with one big plate of mackerel, scrambled eggs, and rice, along with two pairs of chopsticks. He handed one pair to Rin before carefully worming his way beneath the comforter. Rin snatched a piece of egg off the plate before Haru even had a chance to get settled.

"I think it's funny, that you eat scrambled eggs for breakfast all the time," Haru murmured. "It's very…Australian of you."

Rin shrugged, stuffing another piece of egg into his mouth. "I like it. You should learn how to make bacon."

"What am I, a restaurant?"

"Only if there's a restaurant that serves nothing but mackerel."

"Ugh." Haru pushed his shoulder gently. "You're so dumb."

"Yeah? So are you." He pushed Haru back, but he was careful not to do it in any way that would spill the food. He popped another piece of egg into his mouth as Haru scowled at him. When he noticed the look on the black-haired boy's face, he grinned.

"You're not really mad," he said, looking like a playful kid. "Don't give me that face."

Haru's chilly façade broke down in the face of Rin's adorable smile. "No," he ceded. "I'm not." He broke off a piece of mackerel with his chopsticks and popped it into his mouth.

"You want to go for a swim today?," Rin asked.

"…Obviously."

"Let's go back to Samezuka, then, after this," Rin said. "It's too cold to go swimming outside."

"It's never too cold to go swimming."

Rin rolled his eyes. "Whatever, polar bear. I'm not going to swim outside today."

"Did you just call me 'polar bear'?"

Rin ignored him. "You want to stay over at my place tonight? Nitori's out for the weekend."

"Sure." Haru quickly finished off his mackerel and rice. "Let's go."

"I'm still eating," Rin complained. "Why are you in such a rush?"

Haru rolled his eyes a little. "Why are you so slow?"

"Ahh," Rin sighed dismissively. "Just hold on, you'll get plenty of time in the pool. Giving me five more minutes to eat isn't going to make a difference."

"I'm going to put my jammers on," Haru said. Rin just laughed and shook his head as Haru got up and left the room to find his suit. He finished off his eggs and got up to take their dishes to the kitchen. He quickly washed their plate and utensils with a little dish soap, and set them neatly aside to dry. As he was drying off his hands, he felt a pair of arms latch onto him from behind.

"Are you ready yet?," Haru asked quietly.

Rin chuckled. "I have to put some pants on first, dummy." He was still wearing nothing but boxer shorts. "Give me a minute." Haru let go so that he could return upstairs and change into a fresh outfit. As promised, within a minute, he was back downstairs, carrying his packed-up messenger bag and ready to go. Haru was waiting impatiently by the door, hands in the pockets of his Iwatobi swim jacket.

They walked down to the train station: halfway there, Haru slipped his hand into Rin's pocket, and quietly held the red-haired boy's hand. Rin blushed, but he didn't say anything. The train was deserted, this early on a weekend: the car that they'd chosen had no one in it. Haru leaned gently on Rin's shoulder. This made the red-haired boy blush even more, even though there was no one there to see them. Before long, they arrived at Samezuka.

"I have to go get my jammers," Rin said. "But I'll let you into the pool first." He took Haru down to the swim complex and used his key card to unlock the door: Haru was in the pool before he even had a chance to close the door. He chuckled to himself, but his eyes sparkled a little, when he saw Haru dive in. He'd always loved watching the black-haired boy swim. He had to force himself to turn away.

When he got up to his dorm room, he was startled to find Nitori there, sitting on the top bunk and reading a magazine. "Holy fuck, what are you doing here?," he exclaimed before he could stop himself.

Nitori looked up in surprise, eyes widening. "Matsuoka-senpai?"

"You're supposed to be gone this weekend," the red-haired boy said. "Why the fuck are you still here?"

"Oh, um, my aunt got sick, so my parents had to go to Kyoto and take care of her," Nitori replied. "They told me to stay here, and come next weekend instead."

"Shit," Rin swore under his breath. "Fuck."

His obvious displeasure made Nitori cringe. "Um…I'm sorry, I didn't realize it was going to be such a problem…"

"Oh-…no, Nitori, it's not your fault," Rin said, quickly trying to get his anger under control. "Sorry. But…is there any way that you can stay over in someone else's room tonight?"

Suddenly, Nitori seemed to understand, and he smiled a little. "Oh! Are you bringing Nanase-san over tonight?," he asked gently. "I can leave, if you guys want to be alone."

Rin growled. "That's not it," he muttered. "I just need the room to myself tonight."

"I can stay at Yoshi's," Nitori said; a knowing smile lingered on his face.

"Good. Be out by four, and stay out until noon tomorrow. I'll get you a bag of those candies you like."

"Ok," Nitori agreed easily. "No problem, senpai."

Rin breathed a sigh of relief. "Good. Good." He went over to his closet and pulled out his jammers.

"Are you going for a swim with Nanase-san?," Nitori asked.

"Not your business," Rin muttered in reply. He quickly threw his suit into his swim bag, along with his keys and his wallet. In no time, he was out the door again.

"Ok, well…have a good time!," Nitori called after him.

He went down to the swim complex and into the locker rooms so that he could change. It only took him a second to strip down and don his swim suit. Haru was floating around on the surface of the pool, eyes closed and completely oblivious to everything around him.

With a devious grin, Rin decided to surprise the black-haired boy: he dove in, stealthily propelling himself into the space directly beneath Haru. He trapped Haru in his arms as he resurfaced, causing the black-haired boy to let out a little yelp.

"Gotcha!," he laughed playfully.

"Ugh, let go of me, you idiot," Haru muttered, pushing him away.

"Nope." He kept a firm grip on the flailing black-haired boy, laughing at Haru's efforts to break free. Finally, after planting a loving kiss on Haru's cheek, he let go. Haru glared at him for a moment: then, a familiar glint came into the black-haired boy's eye, and he lunged at Rin, pushing him underwater. They wrestled for a moment, but Rin managed to gain the upper hand. He put Haru in a headlock and dragged him over to the side of the pool.

"You've lost your pool privileges," he joked as he lifted Haru out of the water and set him squirming on the pool deck. "You're gonna have to earn your way back in."

Haru's eyes glinted again. Without a word, he sprang at Rin, knocking the red-haired boy off-balance. They both fell into the water, and before Rin knew what had hit him, he was trapped against the wall by his black-haired boyfriend.

"Earn my way?," Haru murmured darkly. "How's this for earn my way?" He went in for a passionate kiss: Rin's lips could barely keep up with Haru's teeth and tongue. Gradually, Haru's kisses grew gentler, more prolonged, and the red-haired boy went weak in the knees; soon, he was leaning back against the side of the pool, a ball of putty in Haru's hands.

"…No fair," he moaned when Haru pulled away. "You cheated."

"It's not cheating," Haru replied with a devious look in his eye. "It's knowing how to play the game."

"Ehhh…" Rin shoved him half-heartedly, still trying to dispel the butterflies in his chest.

"Come on," Haru murmured. "Let's swim." He dove underwater, and Rin quickly followed: it was such an intimate feeling, sharing the water with Haru. Rin could feel the black-haired boy's every movement, a quiet ripple through the water: he imagined that Haru could feel him, too.

He chased after Haru for a while: the black-haired boy was so damn fast. He always had been. But with one last burst of speed, Rin managed to catch up, and he enveloped his blue-eyed boyfriend in an underwater hug. He felt Haru's soft, smooth skin, and he closed his eyes. For a moment, he imagined that they were in the ocean, floating freely, far away from the rest of the world.

Nothing but blue.

He could feel Haru's eyes close, too. He imagined that the black-haired boy was picturing the same thing, and it made him smile.

When they surfaced for air, he didn't let go: he couldn't. In that moment, he loved Haru so much that letting go would be unthinkable, unimaginable. When he finally opened his eyes and looked into Haru's face, that feeling only grew.

Now would be the perfect time to say "I love you."

The idea seeped into Rin's mind, and the thought of it alone made him blush. Haru was still watching him, with those warm blue eyes. Was that love, that he could see in them? Happiness? A tiny smile pulled at the black-haired boy's lips.

"What are you looking at me like that for?," he asked.

"…Like what?"

"…Like you want to say something."

"I don't want to say anything," Rin lied softly.

"Then what?" Haru's azure eyes reflected the soft blue of the water, the brightness of the sunny sky. They made it difficult for Rin to speak.

"…Nothing," he murmured lightly. His hand moved up to cradle the back of Haru's head, and after another moment of gazing into Haru's eyes, he leaned in to give the black-haired boy a loving forehead kiss.

They swam a little more, sometimes racing, sometimes not. Finally, late in the afternoon, they left the water, walking hand-in-hand to the locker rooms. They showered off and went to put their clothes on.

"You want to go get some coffee?," Rin asked. Even though they'd been swimming inside, he still felt a little cold from being in the water so long.

"Sure," Haru replied, shaking out his damp hair. Rin took a hairdryer from his locker and started drying his own long strands: he hated waiting for his hair to air-dry. Meanwhile, Haru was realizing that he hadn't brought any underwear.

"Do you have an extra pair of boxers?," he asked, rummaging through Rin's locker.

"What?"

"Extra boxers!"

"Oh. Not down here." Rin shut off his hair dryer for a minute. "You can go up to my room and get some, if you want. Here." He tossed Haru his room key and went back to drying his hair. The black-haired boy disappeared for a few minutes, and came back with a pair of Rin's underwear balled up in his hand.

"That was quick," Rin remarked: he was just putting his hair dryer away.

"Ran into your roommate," the black-haired boy replied. "He told me where you keep your underwear."

Rin's eyes widened, and he quickly turned to look at the clock: he hadn't even thought about whether or not Nitori would still be there. 3:45. Shit. "You asked Nitori…for a pair of my underwear?" Oh God…

"Relax, stupid, I said I was bringing it to you. You really think I'm that dumb?"

"I don't know," Rin muttered.

"He knows anyway," Haru said, quickly peeling off his swimsuit. "He asked me how our swim was, and when I left, he told me to enjoy my evening with you." He smirked quietly. "He's very polite."

Rin's face was turning red. "He wasn't supposed to be here this weekend," he muttered. "He'll be gone later."

"It's fine," Haru murmured. He finished changing and quietly took Rin's hand. "You're the one who cares, not me."

"Let's just go get coffee." Rin slipped his swim bag over his shoulder and closed his locker. Side by side, they left the swim complex and walked off-campus, to a little café that Rin liked to frequent. The red-haired boy order their usual drinks, a latte with cinnamon for Haru and a dark chocolate mocha for himself: then, they sat down in a corner, quietly sipping their beverages. Haru reached under the table and gently found Rin's hand, slowly going over it with his fingers.

"What are you doing?," Rin muttered into his coffee.

"Nothing," Haru murmured. His fingertips brushed the center of Rin's palm. For some reason, this little gesture felt so incredibly intimate, almost like kissing. It made Rin blush a little, and quietly pull his hand away.

"Cut it out," he murmured.

"Your hand is kind of cold."

"Yeah, 'cause we were in the pool for like four hours."

"What are we doing for dinner? I'm starving."

"What do you want to do?"

Haru considered this for a moment, sipping his coffee. "You want to get take-out from the place next to the mart?"

Rin shrugged. "Works for me." When they'd finished their coffee, they left the café and walked a few blocks to a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant. The owner, a petite older woman, greeted them with a smile: they'd come to the restaurant many times before, and she knew them both by name. The rest of the restaurant was empty, as it often seemed to be. Its perpetual emptiness was the reason that Rin and Haru had selected it, initially: they'd wanted to go out, but somewhere where they wouldn't be seen. Of course, the owner had caught them holding hands beneath the table on their second visit, and immediately guessed that they were more than friends. From that moment on, she watched over them as a mother hen might watch over her chicks, taking especially good care of them whenever they came in.

"What can I do for my young lovers today?," she asked, leaning over the counter with a conspiratorial grin. Rin blushed: she always called them that, when no one else was around. "Let me guess…grilled mackerel for our Nanase-san, I'm sure." Haru nodded to her with a little smile: he always ordered the same thing. "And…perhaps the beef bowl, for Matsuoka-san?"

Rin nodded, still looking a little embarrassed by the attention. "Yeah, thanks," he murmured.

"Coming right up!" The kitchen was open to the restaurant, so she could continue chatting with them while she prepared their meals.

"Can we get those to go?," Rin added.

"Not sticking around today, huh?," she said with a little smile. "You boys have big plans tonight?"

"Nothing in particular," Rin replied. "Just hanging out."

"Well, you enjoy your weekends while you can," she said. "There's no better time, than when you're young." She sighed nostalgically and turned Haru's mackerel filet over on the grill. "You boys still doing well in school? Keeping your grades up?"

"Yeah. I do fine."

"I'm doing ok, except in English," Haru said with a sigh.

"Matsuoka-san is pretty fluent, isn't he?," she inquired. "Can't he help you?"

"I can only do so much," Rin muttered. This earned him a sharp elbow to the ribs, and a hearty laugh from the woman behind the counter.

"You boys are just like my sons," she said fondly. "Always bickering with each other." She pretended to get serious for a moment. "You be kind to him, Matsuoka-san," she warned, waving a spatula. "Boys like him don't come around every day."

"Yeah," Haru kidded quietly, giving Rin a little nudge. "Be nicer to me."

"Ugh." Rin pushed him back, looking annoyed, and the woman chuckled.

"Now, now. Here, your food's ready." She packaged it up into two little containers and placed them into a plastic bag. Rin paid her, setting the money on the counter, and she quickly made their change. "You boys have a good evening," she said, giving them one last smile. They thanked her and left the restaurant, carrying the plastic bag.

This time, when they went up to Rin's room, Nitori was nowhere to be found. Haru immediately sat down on Rin's bed, flopping backward onto the mattress as Rin sat down cross-legged on the floor.

"Don't eat up there," he muttered as he started unpacking the food. "I don't want food on my sheets."

"Yeah, yeah, I know," Haru sighed. He still didn't move.

"Come on, come sit with me," Rin said. After a moment, the black-haired boy slithered down to the floor and cozied up next to him. Rin popped open the takeout containers: he had to work around Haru, who was halfway in his lap, leaning against his shoulder.

"Feed me," the black-haired boy said. "I'm tired."

"So needy," Rin muttered fondly. He grabbed a piece of mackerel and used his chopsticks to pop it into Haru's mouth.

"Mm," the black-haired boy murmured. He closed his eyes and chewed quietly as Rin took a bite of his own meal. The red-haired boy ignored Haru for a bit, thinking that the black-haired boy would start eating on his own. But after a few minutes, a loving hand brushed his side, tugging gently on the fabric of his tank top.

"I want more," he heard the black-haired boy mutter.

"So eat, then. No one's stopping you."

Haru sighed. "Feed me."

"Yeah, ok, I'll feed you," Rin replied sarcastically. He picked up half of the large mackerel filet and playfully tried to cram it into Haru's mouth. The black-haired boy let out a grunt as Rin forced the fish down his throat with a laugh.

"You're a dick," Haru gasped, once he'd managed to swallow. Rin was still laughing to himself.

"That's what you get," he replied.

"Maybe I should show you the proper way to feed someone." Suddenly, Haru had chopsticks in his hand, and he picked up a small piece of beef from Rin's bowl.

"Fuck no," Rin warned, seeing the look in Haru's eye. "Don't you dare." But Haru ignored his boyfriend's warning: with his free hand, he grabbed hold of Rin's jaw, gently forcing the red-haired boy to turn and look him in the eye. This unexpected eye contact made Rin freeze a little, just long enough for Haru to deliver the piece of beef to Rin's slightly-open mouth. He closed Rin's mouth for him, and let his chopsticks linger gently between Rin's lips before sensuously pulling them out. Rin's expression was one of outrage, but the blush rising in his cheeks told a different story.

"Ugh, cut that out," he growled, shoving Haru's shoulder. "I'm not a girl, I don't like that stupid shit."

Haru just smirked to himself. "Whatever you say." He picked up another piece of beef and held it out, just inches from Rin's mouth. Rin glared at him, but Haru's lightly glimmering gaze never wavered. Finally, the red-haired boy's head darted forward, and he snatched the piece of meat off of Haru's chopsticks. Haru's eyes glimmered with satisfaction as he watched Rin chew.

"Come on," he said, holding out another piece. "You like it."

Rin picked up a piece of mackerel and stuffed it into the black-haired boy's mouth, in order to shut him up. Haru retaliated with another piece of beef. Soon, they were almost wrestling, trying to see who could feed the most food to whom. Before they knew it, the food was gone.

"I win," Haru murmured. "My job was way harder." He didn't realize that halfway through their battle, Rin had consciously started taking bites from his chopsticks.

"Whatever," Rin said, trying to ignore the residual blush in his cheeks. "Now what?"

"I'm tired," Haru replied. "I'm going to put on my sweats."

Rin scoffed. "Oh, you mean my sweats?," he said. "You didn't even bring any clothes."

"Same thing." He got up and started rummaging through Rin's closet, pulling out an oversized t-shirt and a baggy pair of sweatpants with 'Samezuka' printed on the side.

"What would you do, if I stopped letting you borrow my clothes?," Rin asked.

"Well, I guess I'd have to start walking around naked," the black-haired boy replied. "Is that what you want?" By this point, he was down to his boxers.

"Maybe," Rin said with a little grin.

"Well, too bad, because I'm not going to do it." Rin got a pair of boxers in the face for his remarks, and by the time he'd removed them, Haru had pulled on the sweatpants.

"Ugh, you dick," Rin muttered, throwing the boxers back at him. Haru chuckled softly, amused by the red-haired boy's annoyance. "What am I supposed to wear, if you're wearing my sweats?"

Haru shrugged. "I guess you'll have to start walking around naked," he murmured.

"Like hell."

"There are two pairs in here," Haru remarked. "What are you whining about? Just wear the other ones."

"It's the principle of it," Rin muttered.

"You're weird." Haru wandered over to their desks, surveying them quietly. He picked up a book at random and started leafing through it.

"What are you looking at?"

Haru had stopped flipping pages, his attention caught by something. He opened the book a little wider and started examining its contents more thoroughly. "Your roommate keeps a journal?," he muttered to himself.

Oh dear god… "Haru, put that down." He had no idea what Nitori might have written, but he had a bad feeling that a lot of it would be about him.

Haru, of course, ignored him, and kept flipping through the diary. "…He drew you," the black-haired boy murmured, pausing to examine a page sideways. "Pretty good, but I can do better." He flashed the drawing toward Rin, but he took it back before Rin could get a good look.

"Seriously, Haru, put that down," Rin groaned. "Don't go through his stuff."

"Why not?," Haru murmured, nonchalantly turning a few more pages. "He'll never know."

"Because," Rin grumbled, leaning forward to grab the journal. Haru turned, easily avoiding Rin's hand. He quickly flipped forward to the most recent entry.

"Hmm. I met Matsuoka-senpai's boyfriend for the first time today. Nanase-san is even more attractive up close! I can definitely see why Matsuoka-senpai fell in love with him." Haru was struggling to keep a smirk under control. "I think he was borrowing a pair of Matsuoka-senpai's underwear for himself," he read on, in a voice choked with quiet laughter. "Matsuoka-senpai must love Nanase-san a lot, to let him wear his underwear. He hates it when other people touch his clothes, much less do something like that." Haru looked over at Rin, amusement glimmering in his eyes. "Do you really?," he asked. "Does it secretly bother you, that I wear your clothes all the time?"

"No," Rin said, trying to snatch the journal out of Haru's hands. "He just thinks that because I didn't want him doing my laundry with his."

"I wonder if Matsuoka-senpai sleeps with Nanase-san," Haru read on, avoiding Rin's attempts to make him stop. "I wonder what that must be like. I have to say, it's difficult to imagine them like a typical couple. Both of them seem to be very private people, very reserved with their emotions. Sometimes, it seems like Matsuoka-senpai doesn't really like Nanase-san at all. I think he does, though. He just doesn't like for other people to see how much he cares. In fact, I think that the more he cares, the harder he tries to hide it." Haru smirked again. "Hm. Perceptive kid."

"I think that's enough," Rin said, still struggling to grab the journal.

"I like to think that Matsuoka-senpai smiles a lot more, when he's with Nanase-san alone," Haru continued, leaning back and holding the journal away from Rin. "I like to think that they do lots of cute couple-y stuff when nobody's watching. But even if they don’t…I just hope that Matsuoka-senpai is really happy, with Nanase-san. I hope they have a really good relationship, and I hope that Nanase-san makes him feel really loved, because he deserves to feel really loved." Finally, Rin managed to yank the journal away and slam it shut.

"Stop snooping through my roommate's stuff," he muttered.

"Do I make you feel really loved?," Haru teased quietly. "Do you feel loved, right now?"

"I'd feel more loved if you'd quit going through everyone's shit."

Haru chuckled in his quiet way. "I think your roommate wants us to make love," he said, laying down on Rin's bed. "What do you think?"

"I think you should shut it." Rin snatched the pillow out from under Haru's head and hit him in the face with it. Haru playfully hurled it back, and Rin pounced on him.

"Ow," Haru grunted as the heavy red-haired boy crushed his lungs. "Get off me, you're breaking my ribs."

"That's what you get."

Haru struggled to push him off. "Remind me to never really piss you off, then," he grunted. "You're really heavy."

"It's all my muscles," Rin replied with a cocky smirk. Haru rolled his eyes and pushed Rin's head away.

"You're an idiot."

Rin laughed as he rolled off his black-haired boyfriend. "You like me anyway," he said, pulling Haru into his arms.

"God knows why," Haru muttered. Still, he let Rin embrace him. "…Maybe because you're so warm," he murmured after a moment. Rin quietly nuzzled into his hair, too contented by his presence to be concerned about anything else.

"…Do you ever wonder what it would have been like, if we'd grown up together?," the black-haired boy murmured after a while.

"Why are you bringing that up, all of a sudden?," Rin asked.

"I don't know," Haru replied. "I just…wonder, sometimes. If you'd stayed here, instead of going to Australia…"

"We would have kissed," Rin murmured. "In middle school. I would have kissed you, and you would have gotten pissed off at me."

He felt Haru smile a little. "Probably. But then when you finally tried to apologize, I would have ended up kissing you on the cheek."

Now, Rin was the one smiling. "You think we would have started dating back then?," he asked.

"We wouldn't have called it that," Haru murmured. "We would have started cuddling a little after swim practice, but we wouldn't have called it dating."

Rin chuckled quietly. "Sounds like us," he murmured.

"You would have started following me home," Haru went on. "Hanging around at my house. You'd want to kiss me again, but you'd be too chicken to do it."

"I'd hold your hand, though," Rin said softly. "While we were watching TV or whatever. We'd have sleepovers, and I'd sleep in the bed with you."

"Then, finally, I'd kiss you," Haru murmured. "One night, while we were sitting in front of the TV. You'd get really cute and embarrassed-"

"I would not," Rin argued.

"Yeah, you would," Haru said with a little smirk. "But then you'd get all cuddly, and cling onto me until we went to sleep." He snuggled into Rin's chest a little. "Sex would happen the same way," he murmured. "We'd probably date for a long time without doing it, even though you'd be thinking about it constantly, teasing me about it but never following through. And then one day…I'd start kissing you, and…we'd just let it happen."

Rin hugged him a little closer. "…You're probably right," he admitted softly. He wouldn't have tried anything, for fear of scaring Haru away.

"I know," Haru murmured. He tilted his head upward and gave the base of Rin's neck a little kiss. "But then, after that…you'd get ridiculously clingy, until you realized that it drove me insane. And then we'd be right where we are now. Except…not at Samezuka, obviously."

"…What do you think everyone else would've thought?," Rin asked quietly.

"I don't know," Haru murmured. "I'm not interested in their thoughts."

"Not even Makoto's thoughts?"

Haru looked up at him, eyes glimmering with mild annoyance.

"I'm serious," Rin said. His gaze softened, when he looked at the black-haired boy. "What do you think he would have thought? What do you think he'd think now?"

"I know what he thinks now," Haru murmured. He said this nonchalantly, with a one-shouldered shrug, but Rin's eyes widened in subtle panic.

"Wha-…he knows?"

Haru gave him a slightly strange look. "Of course he knows," the black-haired boy murmured. "Why shouldn't he?"

"I'm not saying he shouldn't," Rin muttered, his cheeks turning red. "But…do the others know, too, then?"

"No," Haru said softly. "Just Makoto."

Rin didn't know how he felt about that. He had nothing against Makoto, but…his entire body tensed up a little, at the thought. "…What does he think, then?," he muttered, a tiny edge creeping into his voice.

"He wasn't surprised," Haru murmured. "He doesn't care." It seemed to dawn on him that Rin wasn't particularly happy with this information. "…What?"

"…I thought we weren't telling people," Rin muttered.

"It's just Makoto," Haru replied, looking slightly puzzled. "What's the big deal?"

"It's not a big deal," Rin grumbled. "…But he better keep his mouth shut."

Haru rolled his eyes a little. "He's not going to say anything."

"He better not." Rin still felt incredibly on edge. Their secret was out. Even if it was just Makoto now…eventually, the others would find out, too, and the thought of that terrified him beyond all rhyme or reason. He tried his best to keep it contained, but he couldn't control the residual crackles of anxiety that were rolling off him like electricity.

"Why are you being so weird about this?"

"I'm not," Rin growled. "Just drop it."

"Can't I talk about you?," Haru asked softly. He reached up and gently brushed a piece of Rin's hair back. He looked confused, like he was trying to figure out what Rin wanted from him.

Haru's loving gesture didn't seem to calm Rin any. The red-haired boy sat up, feeling something uncomfortable in his chest. He felt so anxious, his heart fluttering like a moth inside a glass jar, but he couldn't say why. When he didn't say anything, Haru sat up, too.

"What?," the black-haired boy asked.

"I just don't like having my life blabbed about to everyone," Rin said, picking what seemed like the most logical explanation for his sudden fear.

Haru cocked his head a little. "I told one person, Rin," he said quietly. "And it was someone we both know well. I don’t see why that's a big deal."

"I already said it's not a big deal," Rin growled. "It's fine, all right? Go tell the whole fucking world, I don't care." As soon as the words left his mouth, he felt ashamed and annoyed with himself. He stood up suddenly and stalked over to the window, leaning up against the wall with his arms crossed. "…Sorry," he muttered quietly. "I'm a dick. Just…drop it, all right?"

Haru quietly got up and went over to him, laying a careful hand on his arm and leaning gently into his shoulder. "…I don't get you," he murmured. "Before we started dating, you'd tease the crap out of me, in front of everyone. But now that we're actually together, you don't want anyone to know?"

"It's different," Rin muttered. …It's real now.

"…I thought I'd have to tell you not to kiss me in public," Haru went on quietly. "But…suddenly, you're more private than me."

Because I don't want everyone to know, when I finally fuck something up.

"Just so you know, I didn't bring it up," Haru murmured. "With Makoto. He asked. Otherwise, I wouldn't have said anything."

"I know," Rin murmured. "I believe you." He just wanted the conversation to end, before all his stupid insecurities started pouring out in an embarrassing flood. As if Haru wants to deal with that crap.

"…Then why don't you calm down and come snuggle with me again?" The black-haired boy hesitated a moment, then gently nuzzled his nose against Rin's jaw. Rin couldn't help but smile a little: he loved it, when Haru did that. It tickled, and made him feel warmer and happier almost instantly. He wrapped his arms around Haru and gave the black-haired boy a little hug.

"…Ok," he murmured softly. "Sorry."

Haru gently took Rin's hand and led him back to the bed.

"Let's watch TV," the black-haired boy murmured. He grabbed the little remote from Rin's desk and switched on the tiny TV sitting across from the bed. Then, he sat down on the bed and pulled Rin partially into his lap. The red-haired boy laid down, resting his head against Haru's stomach and thighs. He closed his eyes: a minute later, he felt the gentle caress of Haru's hand, brushing over his bangs.

"…We should start hanging out in the locker rooms after our joint practices," the black-haired boy murmured, thinking back to what they'd been talking about earlier. "There's this little corner, behind the lockers…it's quiet, and no one ever looks back there. It's the perfect size for two people."

Rin opened one eye a little. "No way. Nagisa would find us. He'd never stop talking about it, after."

Haru chuckled a little. "Probably true. But I think it would be nice. It'd be quiet. Cool, but not cold. Cozy and dark. Just enough space to sit down side by side." Rin could imagine it, and it made him smile a little, to picture them curled up in the corner, cuddling in their jammers and swim jackets.

"Maybe we can sneak in there one day," he murmured softly. "When we go for one of our swims at Iwatobi."

"Yeah," Haru murmured. He was silent for a while, as he caressed Rin's hair and fondly stroked his neck, his cheek. "…What if we'd kissed before you left?," he mused softly. "What do you think would've happened then?"

"I would have written to you, probably," Rin replied quietly. His eyes were closed again. "Come to see you on holidays. But I don't think we would have kissed again. I don't know if we would have ever even gotten together."

"Why not?"

"Too much distance," the red-haired boy replied simply. "We'd stay friends, but we'd never be able to get close enough to actually be anything else. And then when I came back…too much time would have passed, with us just being friends. We'd just be stuck in that awkward place."

"I would have kissed you again," Haru murmured. "Every time you came home, to remind you."

"It's not that I would have forgotten," Rin qualified quietly. "I'd be thinking about you." I was thinking about you, constantly.

"I know," Haru replied. "But you'd be afraid that I'd forget you. And I'd be kissing you to remind you that I hadn't." He touched Rin's cheek with the back of his finger. "It would have taken us a while, after you came back, but we would have gotten together." He stopped and looked down at Rin for a long moment. "…All this talk about not being together makes me miss you," he murmured as he shifted his position. He laid down next to Rin, and the red-haired boy rolled over to look at him. He gently took Rin into his arms and curled lovingly around him: Rin automatically pulled his legs up a little and curled in, so that he could fit into the shorter boy's arms. It was a motion they knew well, and they did it effortlessly, without thinking: they fit together perfectly, like two loving pieces of a puzzle. They laid together like that for a while, listening to the soft murmur of the TV. Gradually, they started to stretch themselves out a little, until Haru was lying on his back, and Rin was draped over him a little, head resting on his shoulder.

"…I'm hot," Haru murmured, gently running his hand between Rin's shoulder blades. "I'm going to take off my shirt." He carefully shifted Rin off of him and pulled his shirt off in one smooth motion. "You want to take yours off?," he asked, looking at Rin with glimmering azure eyes. "You're always hot."

"…I guess," Rin murmured. He slowly stripped off his tank top and waited for Haru to lay down again. Once the black-haired boy was settled, he settled in, too. He let Haru caress his bare shoulder blades, and lay a few loving kisses on his forehead.

"…Haru, what are we going to do when we graduate?," he asked softly. "What's going to happen?"

"You're going to go to Tokyo for swimming, and I'll go with you," Haru murmured, as though it should have been obvious.

"What if we don't get into the same college?"

"I'll work," Haru replied easily. "I'll find a job at a café or a coffee shop or something."

Rin looked up at him. "You'd just…not go to college?," he asked softly.

Haru shrugged a little. "I don't have to go to college."

Rin cuddled into him, giving him a gentle hug.

"You're full of sad hypothetical situations today," Haru remarked softly.

"You started it," Rin murmured back.

"Maybe we should just stop talking." Haru rolled over a little, and without any further preamble, leaned down to kiss Rin softly on the lips. Rin loved the feeling of Haru kissing him, because Haru's kisses were the exact opposite of what you might expect. The black-haired boy usually seemed so cold and detached from everything, but when he kissed Rin…his lips were soft and warm, and it was obvious how much he cared. He savored the contact, thinking of nothing else but how good Rin felt to him in that moment. It was one of the few times that Rin could really feel the intensity of the love that Haru had for him: the black-haired boy's love was so deep and pure that kissing him felt like sliding into a quiet pool of molten gold.

The black-haired boy leaned back a little, and gazed into Rin's softened eyes. Quietly, he brushed his hand back through Rin's hair; it lingered on Rin's cheek, a silent 'I love you.' The words almost leapt from Rin's lips spontaneously, when he saw the beautiful look in Haru's eyes. Everything about Haru seemed so perfect, in that moment: he might have been an angel, come down to Earth.

The black-haired angel cocked his head a little. "Why are you looking at me like that?," he asked in his quiet voice.

"…Like what?," Rin murmured softly. He still couldn't tear his eyes away.

Haru smirked a little, and Rin silently melted into a puddle. "You're dumb," the black-haired boy said quietly. He laid down again, nestling his head against Rin's strong shoulder. "Luckily, I like you anyway."

They laid together in comfortable silence for a while: neither kept track of the time. Haru rolled over a little and started kissing Rin's skin. His fingers played gently in the soft contour of Rin's pectoral muscle. The red-haired boy closed his eyes, completely relaxed with Haru in his arms. His whole body was humming with quiet warmth.

I love you so damn much.

"Say something in English," Haru murmured.

"Why?," Rin whispered back. He caressed the hair on the back of Haru's head, lifting up a few strands with his fingers and lazily letting them fall.

"Because," Haru murmured. "I want to hear it."

"Why?"

"Why not?"

"…All right, fine. Let me think of something." In fact, he already had a thousand loving sentences, percolating in his mind. He simply had to take a moment and choose the right ones, ones that Haru wouldn't understand.

"I have a secret," he murmured in English. His eyes softened, as he prepared to let everything out. "My secret is that…I adore you. When I'm holding you like this…I never want to let you go. Just...feeling you warm, near me…I wish I could say the words I really want to say, but I know you'd understand them if I did. So I just have to come up with new ways to say them, ways you haven't learned yet. …I adore you, and I'm crazy about you. ...I would spend the rest of my life, with you."

Haru's blue eyes glimmered softly as he sat up a little to gaze into Rin's. "What did that mean?," he murmured. "What did you say?"

Rin tried to wipe the sappy look off his face. "I said, 'You're a fucking idiot.'"

Haru chuckled, and his entire face lit up. "You did not," he said with a tiny smile.

"I did," Rin replied. "I said, 'You're a fucking idiot, and I can say whatever the fuck I want because you're horrible at English.'"

Haru laughed a little and curled into Rin's chest. "You're a dick," he said quietly.

"You asked me to say something."

"Someday, I'm going to record the things you say and look them up."

"Yeah right." Rin nuzzled gently into his hair. "…If I ever catch you with a tape recorder, you're dead," he murmured with a playful smirk.

"Why? Are you reciting sappy love poems or something?"

"No."

"I bet you are."

"I am not."

"I bet that was the sequel to 'My Shining.'"

"It was not." Annoyed, Rin covered Haru's mouth: the black-haired boy retaliated calmly by licking his palm. "Ugh!" With a cry of disgust, Rin pulled his hand away and wiped it on Haru.

"That's what happens when you put your hand on my mouth."

"Gross."

"Funny, you seem to like my tongue in other places."

"Oh god." Rin blushed bright red. "Haru, shut up."

"I'm just saying," Haru murmured with a shrug. "You weren't complaining before."

"Haru, shut up."

The black-haired boy smirked quietly. "…Why are you getting so embarrassed?," he murmured.

"Haru!" Rin's cheeks were beginning to match his hair. "Stop talking, or I'll sock you in the face."

"No, you won't." Haru wrapped his arms around Rin's neck and kissed him softly. "I like talking about it," he murmured.

"Yeah? You talk to Makoto about that, too?," Rin snapped. Suddenly, all of his playfulness had evaporated, and the anxious feeling in his chest was back. He hated the idea of Makoto (or anyone else) knowing anything about their sex life. What he did was for Haru. That vulnerability was only for Haru to know.

"…No," Haru reassured him softly. "…I meant with you. Why are you all hung up on Makoto today?"

"I'm not." Rin felt irrational tears coming to his eyes. He hated feeling like this. He hated that everything embarrassed him and made him come off as moody, insecure, frightened…any of those adjectives that he associated with weakness. He sat up and turned away, hating himself for the way he felt.

After a moment, he felt Haru pulling him gently back to the mattress: he let himself lay down, but he kept his eyes turned away. He felt the black-haired boy crawl gently on top of him. When he didn't turn to look, Haru quietly turned his head for him, softly beseeching him for attention. At last, they were looking each other in the eye, and Haru's blue orbs held a look of contriteness, a rare expression of guilt.

"I don't talk about things like that with anyone," he said softly. "You should know that."

"I just…it's fucking private, Haru…" Rin's tears started to obscure his vision. "…Maybe not to you, but it is to me."

"You think I don't know that?" Haru's eyes softened. "…It's private to me, too, but even if it wasn't, I wouldn't go around telling people, when I know you don't want me to." His hand ran gently through a patch of hair near Rin's ear.

"How can I trust you to keep anything private, when you already blabbed about us to Makoto?"

"All he knows is that we're dating," Haru murmured. "And he guessed that himself: I didn't say anything about it, except to confirm that it was true. He didn't ask me anything else. He understands, too."

"Yeah, of course he understands," Rin muttered. "He always fucking understands everything, doesn't he." The red-haired boy hated himself, as he said it. He knew how pathetic he sounded. Makoto wasn't even the issue, but somehow, the conversation kept coming back to him.

"Not everything." Haru gazed at him for a long moment. "…He doesn't understand the water," the black-haired boy said softly. "Not the way you do."

Rin shut his eyes, and more tears stained their corners. He felt awful: he knew that Haru hated stupid things like this, and he wished, more than anything, that he could just lock all of his feelings away.

"…I'm not being jealous," he mumbled softly. "…I just…I hate feeling like everyone's watching us. Waiting for something to go wrong."

Haru cocked his head a little. "What would go wrong?"

"…I don't know," Rin murmured. But he did: he knew exactly what might go wrong. He might screw something up, and hurt Haru again. He could feel it, building up inside him: it was only a matter of time, before he said or did something that ruined everything.

"You have to stop this," Haru murmured quietly. "Ok? You're driving me crazy." He nuzzled softly into Rin's cheek. "Nothing's going to go wrong." The black-haired boy closed his eyes and gave Rin a soft little kiss, one that gradually deepened further into a careful expression of love. Rin's anxieties started to evaporate, as he reached up to caress Haru's cheek.

…I love you.

When their lips parted, Rin quietly wiped his eyes. A quiet little smile pulled at the corner of Haru's mouth.

"You want to go out for a walk?," he asked quietly.

"…Ok," Rin murmured. Haru put on one of Rin's black v-necks and a pair of shorts, while Rin donned a black tank-top and his swim jacket. They carefully crept out of the dorms, taking the back way down the stairs. They emerged behind the main building, coming out through a door in an ivy-covered wall. Haru took Rin's hand gently as they left the Samezuka campus and began their walk around the block. There were no houses around them: only trees, and the backs of campus buildings. The street and sidewalks were quiet, lit only by the occasional street lamp. It was a little chillier than Rin had expected, but not cold: at least, not to him. Haru, on the other hand, was quietly rubbing his arm with his hand, trying to warm himself a little. When Rin noticed this, he paused to take his jacket off: without a word, he draped it gently over Haru's shoulders. The black-haired boy slipped his arms into the sleeves, and they went on walking without comment. Rin draped his arm over Haru's shoulders, and gave the black-haired boy's head a gentle kiss. It was moments like these that made him so fond of Haru. He wanted to nuzzle into Haru's hair and give him a thousand little kisses, right in the middle of the twilight street. He wanted to lean Haru back against a lamppost and quietly make out with him in the soft halogen glow.

"Are there always so many stars?" Rin's sweet thoughts were interrupted by Haru's quiet question. The black-haired boy was looking up at the sky. Rin looked up, too.

"You can see them really well up here," he replied quietly. "There aren't as many lights."

"They're nice."

Suddenly, a memory hit Rin hard, like a punch to the chest. He remembered sneaking out of his dorm at night in Australia, to go sit by the rocks on the shore. He'd spent hours looking up at the sky, thinking of everybody he missed in Japan. He'd always wondered if they were looking at the same stars. Missing him, the way he missed them.

Of course, that was long before he'd learned that the stars were different, in the Southern hemisphere, but…it still seemed like a nice thought, even now. That idea of a shared sky had been his comfort, during the lonely years he'd spent abroad.

"…After I left…did you ever look up at the sky at night, and watch the stars?"

Haru looked over at him, eyes glimmering quietly in the street lamp's glow. "…Sometimes," he said softly. "Why?"

Rin felt himself grow warm with embarrassment. "No reason," he muttered. "…Just curious." Haru didn't comment any further.

They turned off the main road, onto a wooded path. After a few minutes, they came upon a small playground, lit only by the moonlight.

"Hey, let's go on the swings," Rin said as he pointed.

"Swings are for kids," Haru muttered.

"I bet I can jump farther than you can."

Haru's eyes sparked a little at the challenge. "Yeah right."

"I'll prove it, right now."

"You're on," Haru replied. "What's the punishment for the loser?"

"Loser has to…"

"…Make breakfast for the winner next weekend, wearing a maid's outfit."

"Ah-! No way, that's too much!"

"You think you're going to lose?"

"No."

"Then what are you afraid of?"

"Hey, you don't even own a maid's outfit! That's not fair!"

"…Then, loser makes breakfast for the winner next weekend, wearing only an apron. Nothing else."

"Fine. You're on." Rin made a run for the swings: Haru wasn't far behind. They took their places and started pumping, trying to get as high as they could possibly go.

"When I win, you're making me bacon," Rin taunted as they passed each other. He kicked his legs up a little higher into the night, the adrenaline of competition coursing through his veins.

"Yeah right," Haru replied. "I've always wanted to see what you'd look like in my apron."

"Let's jump together, on the count of three," Rin called. "One…two…three!" As his swing moved toward its highest point, he launched himself into the air. A happy laugh flew from his lips as he threw himself out as far as he could. He could feel Haru beside him, silhouetted against the moon. In that moment, he felt completely and totally happy: completely and totally free.

When he landed, he immediately looked over to see where Haru had placed: the black-haired boy's heels were planted just inches in front of his own.

"I win," Haru said, eyes glimmering triumphantly. "Guess who's making me mackerel?"

"What-…how'd you beat me?," Rin exclaimed, looking dumbfounded.

"Easy," Haru replied. "I'm lighter, so I go farther. Should have thought of that before you made the bet."

"Rrr…" Rin shoved Haru's shoulder in annoyance. "You dick."

"Hey, you're the one who wanted to do this," Haru replied. "Don't get mad at me."

"I'm not," Rin sighed. "But…are you seriously going to make me make breakfast naked?"

"Not naked," Haru replied. A little smirk pulled at his lip. "You'll be wearing an apron."

"Ugh, you know what I meant." Rin gave him another half-hearted shove.

"Don't be a sore loser." Haru's arms slipped gently around Rin's waist. "You'll look good in my apron." This caused Rin to blush, but in the dark, Haru couldn't see it.

"How about double or nothing?," he muttered. "I'll…race you around the playground."

"Nope."

"Yeah, come on." Rin's competitive drive was coming back. "Around the monkey bars, past the slide, and back. If you win, I'll make you breakfast and feed it to you."

Haru smirked a little. "You just want to get out of your punishment."

"Are you afraid you'll lose?"

"No."

"Then let's go!" With that, Rin took off, racing toward the monkey bars. He could feel Haru right behind him, hot on his heels. He ran nimbly around the monkey bars and used a pole on the play structure for extra speed around the turn. Still, he couldn't seem to shake his black-haired boyfriend. Haru had gotten a lot faster, since they'd run together last. He put on an extra burst of speed as he passed the slide, but he was so focused on beating Haru that he slipped on an uneven patch of sand and went skidding to the ground. Seconds later, he heard a little grunt as Haru tripped and fell over him, followed by a dull thud.

"…Ow." Rin picked himself up a little and saw Haru lying on the sand nearby. The black-haired boy sat up, too, but he winced when he tried to bend his knee.

"Are you ok?" Rin moved toward his boyfriend, to assess the damage: his heart twisted painfully when he saw Haru's bleeding knee.

"I think my knee hit your shoe or something," the black-haired boy murmured. He tried to bend it again, but the motion caused him to inhale sharply in pain. "…I think you're gonna have to help me up," he muttered.

"Of course, here." Rin immediately stood up and offered his hand, taking Haru's elbow as the black-haired boy rose to his feet. "Are you ok? Can you walk?"

"I'm fine," Haru muttered. "I just need a band-aid."

"I have some in my room. Come on, let's go back."

Haru started to walk away, but Rin noticed him limping and took his arm. "Here," he murmured. "Don't try to walk too much on it."

"It's fine," Haru insisted. "It's just a scrape. Don't fuss over me." Still, he kept his arm linked in Rin's, and leaned on the red-haired boy a little more than he normally would have. Their walk back was silent, until Haru seemed to remember why he'd fallen in the first place.

"…So, who won?"

"We'll call it a tie," Rin murmured absentmindedly. He was too worried, to think of competition and punishments. He only hoped that Haru's knee wasn't too damaged.

They snuck back into the Samezuka dorms and slipped into Rin's room. Haru sat down on the edge of the bed, looking calm; Rin, on the other hand, immediately went over to his desk and started rummaging around for his first-aid kit.

"You know, it stopped bleeding," Haru murmured. "It's probably fine."

"I'm still putting a band-aid on you." Rin found the first-aid kit and brought it over to the bed. Haru watched him as he pulled out a tube of antibiotic ointment and a band-aid. He went into the bathroom for a moment, and reappeared with a damp washcloth in his hand. He knelt down on the floor, so that he could get a better angle on Haru's leg. Gently, he started wiping some of the blood away, cleaning the sand out of Haru's wound. Once it looked clean, he squirted a little antibiotic ointment onto his finger and dabbed it expertly on Haru's scrape.

"Seems like you've done this before," Haru observed quietly.

"Gou used to fall a lot," Rin murmured. His focus was still on Haru's knee. He carefully applied a band-aid, pressing it gently onto Haru's skin. "There," he said softly. He looked up into Haru's eyes, his hands still holding the black-haired boy's leg. "You're sure your knee's ok?," he asked. "You don't need to…get it looked at or anything?"

"It's fine," Haru insisted. "Stop worrying." He wrapped his arms around Rin's neck, and let his fingers run gently through the hair on the back of Rin's head. After a moment, Rin let his hands drop, and he stood up.

"Let's lay down," the red-haired boy said softly. He sat down beside Haru, curling one knee up beneath him. Haru leaned over and gave him a sweet little kiss on the lips.

"Fine," he murmured. "But I'm putting your sweatpants on again." He stood up and went over to retrieve them from the floor, while Rin went to his dresser to put on a pair of his own. Haru stripped off his shirt and threw it aside as he climbed into bed again. Rin picked the shirt up and threw it in the laundry basket before joining him. They settled into a comfortable cuddle: Haru wrapped his arm around Rin's shoulders, and the red-haired boy laid his head on Haru's chest. He could feel Haru's warm body, so close…it was all he could do, to keep a clumsy I love you from tumbling out. He wrapped his arm around Haru and started kissing him softly, lips trailing along the contours of Haru's translucent skin.

After a few sweet kisses, he laid his head on Haru's stomach, his arm draping over Haru's abdomen. "I adore you," he said softly in English. He turned his head a little, to kiss the black-haired boy's bare flesh.

"…Say that again," Haru murmured, his fingers reaching down to caress Rin's hair.

"I adore you," Rin repeated softly. He gently splayed his hand out on Haru's chest, stroking it lovingly with quiet fingertips. "I adore you…more than you'll ever know."

Haru smiled a little as his hand slid lazily through Rin's bangs. "I don't know what that means, but I like it," he murmured.

Rin chuckled. "You're weird," he said fondly. He let his lips trail lovingly across Haru's skin as he settled into a more comfortable position.

"You know, you're really…cuddly," Haru said as Rin nuzzled into his stomach. "You really are different, when we're alone." His hand trailed out of Rin's hair and down onto Rin's soft neck.

"I am not," Rin protested, giving Haru's skin a gentle bite. "I'm still the same."

"You're softer," Haru argued absentmindedly. "More…like you used to be."

"Yeah, and what about you?," Rin grumbled. "I didn't know you knew how to smile, before we started dating."

Haru chuckled quietly.

"Or laugh," the red-haired boy added.

"I didn't have much of a reason to." Haru caressed Rin's neck gently. "I smile when I think there's something worth smiling about."

"Hm." Rin let out an amused little chuckle. "You're dumb, you know that?" He kissed Haru's skin and nestled his cheek into the same spot. "You never say 'I love you,' but then you go and say stuff like that."

"Yeah, and what about you?," Haru muttered. "Mr. 'My Shining.' That whole thing was nothing but sappy stuff like that."

"Shut up," Rin groaned. "I was twelve when I wrote that."

"I'm just saying, you do the same thing now. The only difference is that now you say it in English."

Rin sighed. "I'm not as bad as you," he muttered.

"You're right: you're worse."

Chapter Text

When Rin hopped off the train from Samezuka that Thursday, Haru was already waiting for him at the station.

"What, you decided to meet me here today?," Rin asked in surprise. He quickly pulled the earbuds out of his ears and slipped them into his messenger bag.

"You were late," Haru murmured, his eyes betraying nothing. "I didn't know where you were, so I went to look."

Rin laughed. "Why don't you just use a phone, like everybody else?" He wrapped his arm around Haru's waist. "I texted you, to tell you practice ran long. Maybe if you checked your phone every once in a while, you'd know that."

Haru just sighed. "Come on, dinner's going to get cold." He abruptly started walked away, leaving Rin to hurry after him.

"Why are you in such a rush, anyway?," Rin asked.

"I'm not," Haru murmured, slowing his pace a little. "I just want to eat. I'm hungry." He quietly took Rin's hand. "Why'd practice go long?"

"Well…actually, I just stayed a little late," Rin admitted quietly. "I needed to do a few extra runs."

"Why?"

"I just did," Rin replied evasively.

"Don't train so much," Haru said. "You'll hurt yourself." At that moment, they reached Haru's house, and Rin set his bag down in Haru's entryway.

"I won't hurt myself," the red-haired boy grumbled. "I'm fine." He contradicted himself seconds later, when the motion of removing his jacket caused him to wince in pain. Haru noticed, and immediately moved closer, slipping a hand onto Rin's lower back.

"Doesn't look like you're fine," he said quietly. "Your shoulder sore?"

"Just a little," Rin muttered. "Nothing a massage won't cure," he added, looking pointedly at Haru.

The black-haired boy rolled his eyes. "So I'm your sports massage therapist, too?"

"You do it best," Rin replied with a winning little smile. He gave Haru a quick kiss on the lips before heading into the living room. Haru had already laid out the food, it appeared: the low dining table was populated with several items, including a large, steaming pot of mackerel stew.

"Jeez, were you cooking all day, or what?," Rin asked as he sat down. "What's with all this stuff?"

Haru shrugged. "Originally, it was just the stew. I got bored waiting for you."

"Tch. Yeah right."

Rin had seemed eager enough to sit down, but once he actually had food in front of him, he didn't seem quite so enthusiastic. Haru, on the other hand, dug in, spooning stew into his mouth in a quiet but ravenous way. He stopped, however, when he noticed that Rin wasn't eating.

"What?," he asked, setting his spoon down.

"…I just don't…feel very hungry," Rin murmured.

Haru looked at him a little longer. "Why?"

"Do I need a reason?," Rin muttered. "I just don't."

Haru considered him for a long moment before scooting closer and wrapping his arms around Rin's waist. "What is it?," he murmured.

"Nothing," Rin protested. "It's not a big deal."

"That's what you said last time. You have to eat."

"I know that," the red-haired boy snapped.

"If you don't eat, I'm not giving you a massage later."

Rin scowled at him.

"Eat," Haru demanded, picking up Rin's spoon. He took a spoonful of the stew and offered it to Rin. "Feed yourself, or I'll feed you."

The red-haired boy growled a little, but he reluctantly ate the spoonful of stew that was hovering near his mouth. "I'll eat it myself," he muttered, snatching his utensil from Haru's hand. "You're so annoying."

"I don't want to hear about you fainting again," Haru replied. He scooted back to his place, so that he could continue eating.

"I didn't actually faint," Rin muttered as he put another spoonful of stew into his mouth. "I just…got a little woozy."

"Not the way I heard it."

"Well, you heard it wrong, then," Rin muttered. "Who told you that?"

"Makoto heard it from your captain," Haru replied.

"Fuck," Rin swore under his breath. "Don't you guys have anything better to do than talk about me all day?"

"Maybe if you stopped passing out, nobody would be talking about you." This earned Haru a flying chopstick to the arm.

"I said I didn't pass out."

"Quit throwing stuff at me."

"Quit saying stupid things."

"Quit talking and eat your food."

Rin glared at him for a moment, but eventually, he started eating again. They finished their meal in silence: Haru wolfed down his food, while Rin barely picked at his. When Haru had eaten his fill, he scooted closer to Rin again.

"Eat one more bite, and you can be done," he murmured.

"What are you, my mother?," Rin muttered. He quickly scarfed down the last of his stew and pushed the bowl away. "There, happy now?"

"Yes." Haru nuzzled into Rin's jaw a little. "Now, let me give your shoulder a massage."

"Don't you want me to clean up dinner first?"

"We'll do it later," Haru murmured. "Come on." He took Rin's hand and led him up to the bedroom. "Lay down," he said as he grabbed a pillow and threw it onto the floor. "The hard surface is better." Rin lowered himself onto the floor, laying face down on the pillow. "Take off your shirt," Haru murmured. He seemed to be rummaging through a drawer somewhere. The red-haired boy groaned as he sat up a little and stripped off his tank top, throwing it casually aside. He laid down again, and Haru bent down to kiss his bare, muscular shoulder.

He stayed still and closed his eyes while Haru rubbed some lotion on his back. Then, he groaned lightly as the black-haired boy's hands started digging in, right at the sorest spot. Haru was so loving with his hands: firm but gentle, all at once. Rin moaned a little, at how good it felt. Gradually, his muscles began to release, and he let out another tiny moan when Haru started working on the knot beneath his shoulder blade. Tears of relief fell involuntarily from his eyes, leaking out from beneath his closed lids.

"Better?," Haru asked softly near his ear.

"So much better," Rin whispered.

"Is there another spot you want me to do? Your other shoulder feels a little tense, too. …Actually, I'll just do your whole back. You seem really tense today." Without waiting for an answer, he started gently massaging Rin's other shoulder, feeling out any tight spots and carefully making them melt away. He gave Rin's lower back a massage, too: the red-haired boy almost whimpered, when Haru's thumbs pressed strongly into the muscles on either side of his spine. He hadn't even realized how tense he was down there, but somehow, Haru had sensed it, and known exactly what needed to be done. The black-haired boy had always had a keen sense of Rin's body, and what the red-haired boy needed where. It was easy for him, almost as easy as breathing.

Finally, when Rin's entire body was limp and relaxed, Haru moved off of him and laid down beside him.

"You feel better now?," the black-haired boy asked.

"A lot better," Rin murmured, opening his eyes. "Sorry I was being a dick, earlier. I just…really didn't have the best day."

Haru moved a little closer and quietly kissed the red-haired boy's neck. "Something happen?," he murmured softly.

Rin sighed. "It's not worth talking about. It was just a bunch of stupid little things." He closed his eyes, as Haru started caressing the nape of his neck.

"Well, as long as you feel better now," the black-haired boy said softly.

Rin was suddenly filled with a warm, overwhelming love, for Haru: to show it, he rolled over a little and pulled the black-haired boy into his arms. "I don't know what I'd do, if I didn't have you to come back to," he murmured in English.

"I'm going to assume that meant something like 'thank you,'" Haru murmured back.

"Something like that." Rin snuggled up to Haru, his cheek resting on the upper part of Haru's forehead. "I adore you," he whispered in English.

They were quiet for a little while, cuddling sleepily into one another. Eventually, they decided to get into their sleep clothes and move up onto the bed: Rin stripped down to his boxers, while Haru opted for one of the over-sized t-shirts he'd borrowed from Rin but never returned. They laid down again and cuddled up beneath the covers: the dishes downstairs remained forgotten. Haru let out a tiny yawn, looking like a sleepy kitten.

"Tired?," Rin murmured.

"Little bit."

"Go to sleep, then." Rin's hand moved gently onto Haru's waist. "I'm tired, too. I got an overnight pass, so I can stay."

"…All right." Haru rolled over a little, and Rin cozied up to his back. The red-haired boy closed his eyes and almost immediately fell into sleep. They slept peacefully for hours, far into the night. Rin unconsciously nuzzled into Haru's shoulders, clinging to the hem of Haru's sleep shirt like a little kid. Haru dozed quietly, completely unaware of anything around him.

Suddenly, around two in the morning, Rin sat up with a gasp. His breathing was ragged, his eyes wide with fright. As he struggled for air, tears gathered in his eyes and streamed down his cheeks, soaking them within seconds. He curled into his knees as sobs started clawing their way from his throat.

"Rin?" A soft shifting of sheets, and a gentle hand on his arm. "Rin, it was just a nightmare," he heard Haru murmur. Then, he felt a gentle kiss, Haru nuzzling into his hair. "It's ok." The red-haired boy couldn't seem to get a grip on himself: he tried to breathe, but he kept choking on his sobs. His whole body had begun to shake.

"Rin…shh…" Haru's voice, as calm as the sea. He laid his hand on Rin's naked back, rubbing gently between his boyfriend's shoulder blades. "It's ok," he murmured softly. He carefully kissed Rin's shoulder, his mouth working its way up to the crook of Rin's sensitive neck. He nestled his cheek against the red-haired boy's skin and nuzzled it lovingly as Rin struggled to catch a breath. The red-haired boy's return to reality was slow: it took him a few minutes to stop gasping and sobbing like a frightened child. The whole time, Haru held him, making gentle physical contact to soothe his shaking soul. When Rin's tremors started to subside and his sobbing faded into quiet sniffles, Haru gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek, below his ear.

"You ok?," the black-haired boy murmured.

"…No," Rin admitted softly. He turned and wrapped his arms tightly around Haru's waist, nestling his cheek into the black-haired boy's shoulder.

"Come here," Haru murmured: he hugged Rin back, cradling the red-haired boy in his arms. He could feel Rin trembling lightly against him. "What were you dreaming about?," he asked softly.

"Nothing," Rin whispered. He felt cold, and shaky: all he wanted was to feel closer to Haru. He didn't want to tell his boyfriend about how he still dreamed of that funeral procession, how he could still feel himself being dragged under by that sinking boat and all the ghosts that occupied its decks. He pressed himself a little closer to Haru, a chill running down his spine. Suddenly, his chest felt tight, and he couldn't breathe in all the way.

"It was just a dream," Haru murmured. Rin closed his eyes and tried to focus on Haru's body, to feel how relaxed and at peace it was. After a moment, he could feel Haru's breathing, so calm and self-assured, gently taking over for his own futile attempts at exhalation. Haru's inner quiet was so strong that it drew Rin in, pulling him further and further into peaceful breath and calming stillness. Finally, in Haru's arms, he began to feel safe.

"…Sorry I woke you up," he apologized in a whisper.

"It's fine," Haru murmured. "Let's just lay down again." They did, without letting go of each other: Rin cozied up against Haru, clinging to him like a teddy bear. He wrapped his arms around Haru's back, and let his hands rest near the black-haired boy's shoulder blades; his leg slipped in between Haru's, pulling Haru's thigh into his crotch. Haru quietly returned this spider-monkey embrace, resting his hands on Rin's back and his cheek on the top of Rin's head. He let his leg curl gently on top of Rin's and relax into a comfortable bend. He nuzzled softly into Rin's hair, as the red-haired boy closed his eyes. Finally, everything felt calm again. Within minutes, Rin was breathing softly, fast asleep. He didn't feel it, when Haru lovingly kissed the top of his head.

--------

"Let's drive to the ocean today."

Rin gave him a weird look. "The ocean's like five minutes away, why would we drive to it?"

Haru shook his head. "I mean I want to go up the coast," he said. "Find another beach. Maybe stay the night at a hotel somewhere."

"We don't even have a car. Or driver's licenses."

"You're no fun."

"I'm just being realistic! Let me know when you magically find a car and learn how to drive. Then we'll talk."

Haru sighed. "I just want to go somewhere far away," he murmured.

"…We could take a train," Rin suggested softly. "If you want to go somewhere. I'll do that with you."

"…I wish you could drive," Haru sighed.

"Why do you want to drive? Car, train, what's the difference?"

"You can't roll the windows down on a train. And there aren't any sunroofs."

"What are you talking about?"

"I was watching a movie," Haru said softly. "I want to find a car with a sunroof and stand up in it while you drive us down the coast."

"What movie did you get that out of?"

Haru shrugged. "Some movie."

"You can't do that in real life, anyway," Rin said. "You'd fall out and get hurt."

"I would not. As long as you drove carefully."

"You're crazy."

"Wouldn't you want to?" Haru's electric azure eyes gazed into Rin's. "Don't you think it'd feel really free? The wind on your face. The feeling of motion. It'd be like flying. Don't you think?"

"No. I think you're insane."

Haru sighed. "You have no imagination at all."

"I have all the imagination I need." Rin was imagining plenty: Haru falling out of the car, Haru clutching a broken arm, Haru's head bleeding out onto the pavement. Haru, curled up crying in his arms while they waited for the paramedics to arrive. "When I get a car, there's no fucking way it's going to have a sunroof."

"Fine. I'll make Makoto get a car with a sunroof. He'll take me."

Rin scoffed. "As if. He's the most over-protective guy I know, he'd never let you do something like that."

"Nagisa, then."

"No fucking way."

"He'll think it's fun," Haru said with a tiny smirk. "He'll probably want to do it, too."

"There's no way I'm letting you do that with him."

"Either he can take me, or you can take me. Your choice."

"Would you just drop it?," Rin groaned. "I'm going to make sure that no one you know ever buys a car with a sunroof. Ok? End of discussion."

"You're boring."

"I don't care. I'm not letting you do it. You're gonna end up killing yourself."

"I am not," Haru murmured. With that, though, he seemed to let it go. "…But since we don't have a car, can we take the train somewhere?"

"As long as you don't try to jump out of it."

Haru slapped his shoulder lightly, and Rin chuckled.

"I'm serious."

"If you want to," Rin replied. "Where do you want to go?"

"Like I said, I don't know. I just want to go somewhere."

"Let's go up the coast, then," Rin murmured. "Let's not go anywhere. Let's just go and come back."

"…Actually, let's go to the elementary school."

"What do you want to go there for?"

"I just want to go there."

Rin sighed. "You're so weird today," he said. "Fine, let's walk there, then." He got up off the couch and went out to the doorway to slip on his pool sandals. Haru wasn't far behind.

"I can't find my jacket," the black-haired boy muttered as he searched through the closet. "Can I wear yours?"

"Whatever makes you happy," Rin said with a shrug. "I don't know why you even need a jacket, it's nice today."

"The wind makes it colder." Haru slipped his arms into the too-large sleeves of Rin's Samezuka swim jacket, and shrugged it onto his shoulders. The sleeves almost covered his hands. Rin smiled to himself: he secretly loved it, when Haru wore his stuff. He always looked so…cute, was the only way to describe him. Adorable, even. Of course, Rin could never say this to his face, so instead, he wrapped his arms around Haru's waist and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

"Come on," Haru murmured, taking Rin's hand. "Let's go." They left Haru's house and walked a few miles to the elementary school. They hopped the fence and went out to the tree where they'd laid their bricks all those years ago.

"I'm glad this tree's still here," Haru murmured as they paused in front of it. "I think they thought it was going to die, for a while, but it didn't."

"Me too." Rin tightened his grip on Haru's hand. They gazed at it for a couple minutes longer: there were still a few cherry blossoms left on it, swaying in the quiet breeze.

Haru pulled the red-haired boy over to the chain-link fence nearby, leaning against it with a quiet metal clink. Carefully, he slipped his hand onto Rin's cheek, and closed his eyes as they shared a tender kiss. A warm feeling flooded Rin's body, as they kissed each other quietly, gently...lovingly.

They didn't let themselves linger too long: they didn't want to be see by anyone. But when they turned to go back, they held each others' hands a little tighter, and walked just a little closer to one another.

By the time they got back, the sun was beginning to set. Haru went into the kitchen to make dinner, and Rin attempted to help, chopping up a few vegetables. They ate together on Haru's porch as the last glimmers of sunset faded away.

"Say something to me in English," Haru murmured before popping one of the last bits of rice into his mouth.

"Something like what?," Rin asked.

"I don't know, just…something." Haru curled his legs up beneath him and waited for an answer. His eyes sparkled luminously in the gentle glow from the living room, and when Rin caught sight of them, his heart nearly stopped. He'd always loved Haru's eyes. Perhaps, he thought, that was what he could say. Haru wouldn't understand it, anyway.

"Your eyes…are like the ocean," he murmured softly in English. "…Sometimes I get lost in them, because they're so beautiful, and so deep. It feels like I could stare into them forever, and still never be able to see half of what's going on inside your head." He watched Haru's face for any sign of comprehension, but he quickly realized that he didn't need to worry.

"…What did you say about the ocean?"

Rin laughed. "You would know 'ocean.'"

"But what did you say?"

"I was just talking about the ocean, and how stupid it is that you like to go swimming in it in the middle of April."

"It's almost May," Haru sighed. "Close enough."

"You're going to catch pneumonia and die one day," Rin muttered. "Don't expect me to drop everything and take care of you when you're stuck in bed for a month."

"I'm not going to get sick."

"That's bullshit. You get sick more often than anyone else I know."

Haru just rolled his eyes.

"Why do you keep asking me to say stuff in English, if you don't even know what I'm saying?," Rin asked to change the subject. "I could be calling you a stupid fucking…dickhead asshole, for all you know."

"First of all, you use the words 'fuck' and 'asshole' so often that I've memorized them. So I'd know if you were calling me a stupid fucking dickhead asshole," Haru said. "Secondly, I can just tell, by the tone of your voice. I think you're saying something really nice, but you don't want me to know it."

"Nope. I'm definitely calling you a dickhead."

Haru just shook his head. "Whatever you say." He was silent for a moment. "When you speak English, your voice gets lower, just a little," he murmured, returning to Rin's original question. "It sounds nice." He paused again. "…English sounds really nice, when you speak it."

Rin felt his cheeks grow warm. "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard," he muttered. "It doesn't matter who's speaking it, the language sounds the same."

"I don't think so. When I speak it, it sounds like shit."

"That's because you aren't fluent at all. It has nothing to do with your voice or anything."

"I think you're wrong."

--------

"I fucking hate the rain."

Rin was standing in the entryway, soaking wet. He looked a bit like a cat who'd fallen into a bucket of ice water.

"Really?," Haru said, ignoring Rin's grumpy mood. "I like it."

"Yeah, of course you do," Rin muttered as he set his bag down. "You're not the one who has to walk three miles in it and get soaked to the bone."

Haru disappeared for a moment and came back with a large bath towel. He stood up on the balls of his feet to towel off Rin's hair, and he noticed that the red-haired boy's teeth were chattering.

"You cold?," he asked, wringing out a lock of Rin's hair.

"I'm f-fine." Rin was trying to be stoic, but his body betrayed him: despite his best efforts, he was starting to shiver.

"You're dumb," Haru replied softly. He threw the towel around Rin's shoulders and used it to draw the taller boy closer. "Why didn't you wear a raincoat? Or a jacket, at least?"

"Obviously I didn't expect a fucking monsoon to start," Rin muttered. "It wasn't even supposed to rain today."

Haru pulled the red-haired boy a little closer for a greeting kiss, but when his lips brushed Rin's, he pulled back a little. He glanced at them and noticed they were slightly blue, quivering a bit. "Jeez, your lips are cold," he remarked quietly. "You should get out of those clothes."

"Don't fuss over me," Rin muttered, looking down at the floor. "I'm fine."

"Take off your clothes, or I'm taking them off for you."

Rin smirked. "Maybe I'd like that," he quipped quietly.

"Oh shut up." Haru gave Rin's head a playful shove. "Just do it."

"What, I'm just supposed to s-strip naked in the middle of your hallway?"

"Yes. I'll put your clothes in the dryer."

"What am I supposed to wear?"

Haru rolled his eyes. "As if I haven't seen you naked a hundred times before. Just pretend we're in the locker rooms."

"We're not in the locker rooms. I'm not going to wander around your house naked."

Haru sighed. "Well, if you can find anything in the closet that fits, you can wear it, but…" He paused and seemed to think for a moment. "You and Makoto are kind of the same size," he murmured. "I think I have some of his clothes, still."

"What the heck do you have his clothes for?"

Haru shrugged. "We were hanging out after practice. I needed clothes."

"Do you ever wear your own clothes?"

"I hate carrying them around all over the place," Haru muttered. "It's easier to borrow stuff."

Rin rolled his eyes. "Whatever," he muttered. "Just bring me clothes." His teeth had started to chatter more violently, and his body was shaking lightly with shivers.

"Hold on." Haru went into the laundry room and came back a few minutes later with a complete set of clothes, all in sizes conspicuously larger than his own. Rin let go of the towel around his shoulders to take them with both hands.

"…Are these Makoto's boxers? What the fuck, Haru?"

"I need underwear, too," Haru murmured with a shrug. "They're clean."

"That's not really the issue," Rin muttered under his breath.

"They're just clothes," Haru replied. "What's your problem?"

Rin gave him a look. "You're wearing another guy's underwear. You really don't see what my problem is?"

Haru sighed. "It's not like I take them off his body and put them on. They're just clean boxers."

"Still. How would you feel, if I started borrowing Makoto's boxers?"

"Obviously I wouldn't care, since I'm offering them to you," Haru quipped quietly. "Are you really going to make a big deal out of this? Would you rather try to squeeze into my underwear?"

"No," Rin grumbled. "Just…quit borrowing Makoto's boxers."

"I'll borrow whoever's boxers I want."

Rin glared at him, turning around to peel off his soaking wet clothes. He re-clothed himself in Haru's borrowed wardrobe, including, begrudgingly, Makoto's boxers. They were comfortable, he reluctantly admitted to himself. He could see why Haru liked to borrow them.

"Give me your clothes," Haru said. "I'll put them in the dryer." Rin handed them over in a pile, and the black-haired boy disappeared into the laundry room. Rin huddled into his towel, wishing that Haru had borrowed a pair of sweats from Makoto, instead of a t-shirt and shorts. The quiet rumble of the dryer filled the hallway, and Haru reemerged. He went to give Rin a loving hug, slipping his hands beneath Rin's oversized shirt.

"Your skin's like ice," he remarked softly. He carefully pulled Rin a little closer.

"I'm f-fine," Rin murmured through shivering lips.

"No, you're not," Haru said. "Come on." He loosely took Rin's hand and dragged the red-haired boy up the stairs.

"Ss-seriously," Rin stammered as he involuntarily followed Haru's lead. "You don't need t-to-"

"Just come in here," Haru sighed. He pulled Rin into the bedroom. "Get in bed."

"Damn it, H-Haru, I'm-"

"Fine, I know," the black-haired boy muttered. He pushed Rin toward the bed, and the red-haired boy fell backward a little as he tripped over the mattress. He tried to catch himself, but the mattress was low, so he ended up landing on his ass. Before he had a chance to get up, Haru was wrapping him up in a soft black blanket.

"Damn it, Haru, get off me," he protested. "I don't need you to c-coddle me like some-"

"Rin." Haru covered the red-haired boy's mouth, causing Rin's eyes to widen in bashful outrage. "Shut up, and lay down." Begrudgingly, Rin turned to lay down on his side, and Haru draped the blanket over him. "You have to stay warm," the black-haired boy murmured. "I'm making you cocoa."

"How can I drink it when I'm lying down?" This earned him an annoyed slap on the shoulder.

"Don't get up," Haru warned. "I'll come back."

"Fine, fine," Rin muttered, pulling a pillow up beneath his head. "Whatever." Once Haru had disappeared, he cuddled into the blanket a little more: he was freezing. He could barely keep himself from shivering. His head ached a little, too: he closed his eyes and pulled the blanket a little closer.

After a few minutes, he heard the soft padding of Haru's footsteps, and he opened his eyes a little. The black-haired boy was standing beside him, holding a mug.

"Here," Haru murmured as he sat down on the mattress. "Drink this." Rin sat up a little and took the mug. Haru's cocoa was always delicious: the black-haired boy sprinkled cinnamon into it, and some kind of vanilla flavoring. Rin didn't know exactly how it was made, but it was creamy and delicious, every single time.

"Thanks," he murmured as he went to take a sip. Haru reached up to touch Rin's hair, and seemed to register for the first time that it was wet. Without saying anything, he got up and disappeared into another room. After a few minutes, he came back, carrying an old-looking hairdryer.

"You're lucky my mom left this," he said as he plugged it into an outlet beside the bed. "I'm blow-drying your hair."

"You don't need to do that," Rin protested in annoyance. Haru ignored him, flipping a switch on the hair dryer to turn it on. Reluctantly, Rin let the black-haired boy dry his hair: he'd never admit it, but it felt nice, having Haru's fingers comb through his locks. The soft whirring of the hair dryer filled the room, so neither of them tried to speak. Rin closed his eyes and let himself relax, getting lost in the calming combination of the hair dryer's drone and Haru gently stroking his hair. He was spacing out, so he didn't realize that Haru had stopped until he felt a gentle kiss on his forehead.

"Feel good?," the black-haired boy murmured. "Warmer?"

"…Yeah," Rin mumbled, nuzzling gently into Haru's cheek.

"You're lucky I don't get tired of taking care of you," Haru murmured.

"…C'mere." Rin's eyes glistened softly as he wrapped his arms around Haru's waist and gently pulled him down to the mattress. Haru quietly dropped to his knees, then leaned onto his side, falling carefully onto Rin. The red-haired boy welcomed him to the bed with a tender, loving kiss. He took this kiss and ran with it, quietly drawing them into a lingering passion.

"…I'm sleepy now," Rin murmured softly. Suddenly, he could barely keep his eyes open: the combination of quilts, a stomach full of hot chocolate, and residual warmth from the hair dryer made him unbearably tired.

"Go to sleep, then," Haru murmured. His hand brushed Rin's cheek, so softly that Rin wasn't sure it was real.

"You'll still be here when I wake up?"

Haru's lips pulled up into a tiny smirk. "Where else would I be, stupid? It's my house."

Rin smiled a little as he laid back and closed his eyes. Within moments, he'd fallen asleep, cheek nestled into the pillows. He slept for a while, then made a gradual return to consciousness. Dimly, he heard a quiet scritching sound, like a pencil on paper. He opened his eyes a little, but when he didn't see anything, he sat up on his elbow to look around. That was when he saw Haru.

"What are you doing?"

The black-haired boy was curled up in the corner, knees pulled up near his chest. He was doodling something in a notebook, periodically glancing up at Rin.

"Nothing," he murmured absentmindedly. "Just stay there." His pencil moved a little more, making soft scratching sounds against the page.

Rin sat up a little more, the blankets falling off him. "Are you drawing me?," he asked.

Haru's eyes flicked upward to look at him. "I'm not done. Lay down."

"Ugh, why are you drawing me now, like this?," Rin groaned. "I can't look very good." Despite his protests, he laid down again.

"You look fine," Haru murmured, concentrating on the page. "Give me two minutes."

Rin sighed. "You're so weird," he muttered, curling up with his pillow again. The room was silent for a while, and Rin could hear the quiet scratching of Haru's pencil. It made him blush a little, when he thought of Haru drawing him. The black-haired boy's drawings were exquisite in their detail, so he knew that Haru's eyes were roving him from head to toe. Finally, Haru's pencil went silent, and Rin sat up again.

"Do I get to see this drawing, or what?," he asked.

Haru carefully uncurled and went over to sit on the bed. He opened his notebook and turned it toward Rin. "Here," he murmured. "I just got bored while you were sleeping. It's nothing special."

Rin's eyes softened a little, when he saw what Haru had drawn. It was a rough but beautiful sketch of him, curled up in bed. His knees were pulled up toward his chest, his hand resting flat on the pillow near his chin. He looked cozy, with his hair falling over his face, his cheek nestled into the soft pillow. His features were rendered in perfect detail, and an almost imperceptible blush shaded his cheeks. Seeing it made him blush for real.

After a few moments, Haru closed the notebook. As he set it aside, Rin's arms wrapped around his waist from behind and pulled him toward the mattress. He leaned back, falling gently onto Rin's abdomen.

"What are you doing?," the black-haired boy muttered. His cheeks were starting to color, too.

"Hugging you," Rin murmured. "What's it look like?"

Haru turned and laid down, sliding off of Rin and landing softly at his side. Rin pulled the black-haired boy close to him, kissing him lightly on the cheekbone.

"You should be an artist," he murmured. "You could be famous."

"Yeah, right," Haru muttered. "Don't be dumb."

"You could," Rin argued softly.

"Nobody would pay for pencil drawings of you."

Rin laughed a little. "Gee, thanks."

Haru sighed. "You know what I meant."

"You could do portraits of other people. They'd pay for that."

"I don't want to do portraits of other people. And nobody would pay for a pencil-drawn portrait, anyway."

"I would."

"You're dumb."

"I would!"

"…Actually, I bet Nitori would pay for a pencil drawing of you."

Rin's face turned bright red. "Do not ever let him see those," he muttered.

Haru smirked a little. "I bet he'd buy all my sketches," he murmured. "Especially the ones of you naked."

Rin's eyes widened. "What ones of me naked?"

"Relax," Haru murmured. He nuzzled into Rin's shoulder a little. "…Those ones are in a different notebook."

"When the hell did you draw me naked?"

"They're from memory. Why, do you want to see them?"

"God, no."

A tiny smirk pulled at Haru's lip. "Don't worry, I made you look good."

"Oh god." Rin's face had gone completely scarlet by this point. "I hope you keep that locked away in a vault somewhere."

"It's in a safe place," Haru murmured. "Don't worry."

In the brief silence that followed, Rin's stomach growled quietly, and Haru looked at him.

"Hungry?"

"Kind of, now that you mention it."

Haru sat up a little. "I'll make dinner."

Rin sat up, too. "Are you sure? I can make it. You've been making me dinner a lot lately."

"There's something I want to make."

"You're sure you don't want me to help?"

"Just stay here." Haru got up and left the room, padding downstairs to the kitchen. After a moment, Rin heard the soft sound of metal pots being moved. He laid back down for a while, listening to the sounds of Haru in the kitchen. His mind started to drift, but eventually, it found its way back to Haru's second notebook. After a moment, he got up and started to search for it: he was curious, as to what it really contained.

He looked under the bed and on the bookshelves, but he didn't find a second sketchbook. Carefully, he started searching through Haru's closet: at last, he found it, sitting beneath a few folded shirts in a drawer. He took it out and opened it to a page in the middle. His eyes started glimmering softly, when he saw what Haru had drawn.

Rin was lying on his stomach, cheek resting on a soft surface: his eyes were closed, and he looked content, if a little embarrassed. His entire body was naked. Haru had captured the gentle curve of his ass, his long, lean legs…every detail of his lithe muscles. His hair hung down in strands over his forehead, looking a little mussed in the back from a passionate session of love-making. There was something artistic about it, and something loving, too. Rin could sense the amount of gentle consideration that had gone into each and every pencil stroke.

The next one made his heart seize. Haru had drawn them together, lounging in bed. The sheets were curled skillfully around their private parts, but other than that, they were naked. Haru was lying in the crook of Rin's arm, and Rin was giving him a soft kiss on the forehead. Again, his hair was slightly mussed, and his cheeks still flushed from the things they'd done before. Haru's hand was resting on Rin's chest, his leg curled quietly over one of Rin's. When Rin looked a little closer, he saw a tiny smile, on Haru's face. Seeing it made him smile, too. He could feel how happy they were, in this little universe of a picture. How happy they'd been, in a thousand little moments like these.

That was when he knew, that Haru felt it, too.

Even with all the little things that had changed, all the little complications and nuances inherent in their relationship…they were meant to be together.   Their destiny was written, in swimming pools and sunsets; cherry blossoms, and skies full of stars.

"So you did want to look."

Rin slammed the book shut and stuffed it back into the drawer, but it was too late. His cheeks turned bright red.

"Just wanted to make sure you weren't…drawing weird porn or something," he muttered lamely.

"…You're an idiot."

"Is the food ready yet?"

"Yeah. That's what I came in here to tell you."

They went downstairs to the table, where Haru had laid out a simple dinner. "Hey, you made beef today," Rin remarked. "You run out of mackerel, or what?"

"No." Haru didn't elaborate, and the fact that he didn't made Rin smile a little.

How like him.

They sat down to eat: as usual, Haru's food was amazing. "How'd you learn to cook like this?," Rin asked.

Haru shrugged. "…Cookbooks. Like anyone else."

"Is there anything that you aren't naturally good at?"

"…English."

Rin laughed. "I guess that's true," he chuckled.

"I'm really not that good at cooking, either," Haru muttered. "I'm just average."

"You are not average." Rin laid down, shifting over to rest his head on Haru's thigh. "You're the opposite of average."

"I am not," Haru muttered, giving Rin a mild glare. Rin grinned up at him, and his gaze softened. "I'm nothing special," he muttered, turning away to take another bite of his food.

"…You're special to me."

Haru looked down at him again. The black-haired boy's eyes glimmered softly for a moment before he instinctively hid his emotions.

"…Well, you're an idiot."

Rin just chuckled, rolling over toward Haru so that his cheek could rest on the black-haired boy's thigh. "You're definitely not a natural at taking compliments," he said playfully. "That's for sure."

"You're so annoying." Haru's hand came down gently to rest on the side of Rin's head. His fingers combed quietly through Rin's hair, and the younger boy closed his eyes.

…I love you.

They sat there like that for a while, even after Haru finished eating. Everything was so quiet and peaceful that neither boy wanted to move. Eventually, though, Haru broke the silence.

"My leg's falling asleep," he murmured. "You're going to have to get up."

"I don't want to," Rin groaned. "Your leg makes a good pillow." He nuzzled gently into Haru's thigh, as if to prove his point.

"Too bad," Haru murmured. His hand ran gently through Rin's hair. It had started to rain again, outside: Rin could hear the muffled tap of rain drops on glass, even through the closed doors.

"If I say something in English, will you let me keep laying here?"

Haru considered this quietly. "…No."

Rin groaned.

"Go do the dishes," Haru murmured. "Then we can both lay down."

"All right, all right," Rin muttered as he sat up. "I'll be right back." He hauled himself off the floor and grabbed the plates from the table, taking them into the kitchen and setting them near the sink. He filled the sink with warm soapy water and quietly started washing the dishes, including all of the pots and pans that were still sitting on the stove. He took his time, making sure that every dish was spotless before drying it off and putting it back in the cupboard. Then, he went back out to the living room.

Haru was already lying down on his side, his head resting on a floor pillow. He was facing the doors to the front yard, listening to the rain. Rin went over and laid down behind him, wrapping an arm around his waist.

"…Say something in English," the black-haired boy murmured.

"Oh, so now you want me to say something?," Rin kidded quietly. He gently hooked his ankle over one of Haru's, so that he could be closer.

"Yeah."

Rin shook his head a little. "You're so annoying."

"You're the one who offered."

"Yeah, but that was before, when I wanted to keep laying on you."

"Well, you can't take it back now."

"Ugh…fine," Rin muttered. He wasn't really annoyed, though: he actually had something that he wanted to say. He'd been thinking about it earlier, until the rainstorm and Haru's hot chocolate had distracted him. Now, it flowed back into his mind, ready and waiting to be said.

"I found a new way to say it today," he murmured in English. "I read it in a book: even I had to look part of it up, so I'm sure you won't understand it, but I thought it was really beautiful, when I found the meaning." He cleared his throat a little before continuing. "When I'm with you…it's as though everything is illuminated in a bright, golden glow. My entire soul feels lighter, when I have you in my arms. It's like stepping into the sunlight: everything is clear, and bright, and I know that this is where I'm meant to be. With you." He snuggled quietly into Haru and let the silence fall. "You're my shining sun," he whispered softly. "Without you…there's no light at all. Everything's just lost in darkness."

"…I don't know what that means, but it sounds nice," Haru said softly. "What did you say?"

"…Nothing," Rin said, too wrapped up in his feelings for Haru to come up with a clever response. "…It was just gibberish."

"Did you call me your son?"

"No, I was talking about the sun, like the thing in the sky. S-U-N, not S-O-N."

"I'm your sun?"

"That's not what I said," Rin protested, embarrassed. Haru's English was getting better: he'd have to be more careful next time. "I just said that you like the sun. You know, like you like being out in the sun, in the water. Get your verbs right."

"…Ok…whatever." Haru didn't seem convinced, but he let the issue drop. "Say that thing you always say."

"What thing?"

"You know."

"What, 'fuck?'"

"No, stupid. The thing you always say to me. When we're, y'know…hanging out together."

"Oh." Rin's cheeks turned a little red. "That." He quietly nuzzled into Haru's shoulder before murmuring a sweet little "I adore you" in English. A little smile tugged at the corner of Haru's mouth.

"I love it when you say that," the black-haired boy murmured. He rolled over, so that he could gently bury his face in Rin's hair, and lay his hand at the nape of Rin's neck.

"You don't even know what it means."

"No, but…that doesn't matter."

"You're so weird," Rin muttered. "You're lucky I don't mind." He cuddled a little closer to Haru, and let the black-haired boy's fingers trail gently across his neck. They laid there for a while, listening to the rain: when Rin started to yawn, they went back up to Haru's bedroom, and curled up in the sheets. Soon, they'd both fallen asleep, completely at peace in each other's arms.

-------

When they woke the next morning, sunlight was streaming through the windows. Haru was the first to move, kissing Rin's forehead before untangling himself from the red-haired boy's limbs.

"You know what time it is?," he murmured.

"Mmn?" Rin was still half-asleep.

"…Breakfast time. My apron's waiting for you."

Rin groaned as he burrowed a little further into the sheets. "I was hoping you'd forget," he moaned.

"Yeah, right. Like I'd ever forget something like that."

Rin moaned again. "It's so cold, though," he muttered.

"You'll be standing by the stove."

Rin groaned. "You're seriously going to make me do this?"

"Yes."

The red-haired boy sighed. "Fine," he grumbled. "Let's just get it over with, then." He threw off the blankets and hauled himself out of bed. Haru wasn't far behind: the black-haired boy followed him into the kitchen, to make sure that he was honoring the bet.

"Quit staring at me," Rin muttered as he took the blue apron off its hook. "It's weird."

"I'm not."

Self-consciously, Rin let his boxers drop, then slipped the apron on over his head. He felt himself blushing as he tied the strings behind his back. When he turned around, he saw Haru's azure eyes, staring at him with a spellbound shimmer. The black-haired boy's cheeks were turning slightly pink.

"You like it?," Rin teased, trying to act like he wasn't embarrassed. He put his hands on his hips and stood confidently in front of his blushing boyfriend.

Haru just looked at him, struck speechless. Rin chuckled quietly and went to the fridge, bending over to retrieve two mackerel filets from the middle shelf. Suddenly, he felt overwhelmingly proud of himself, proud of the way he looked. Proud of how the sight of his body could strike Haru dumb. He felt an irresistible grin tugging at his lips.

"Where's your spatula?," he asked nonchalantly, turning to set the mackerel on the counter.

"…In the drawer. By the…stove."

Rin chuckled to himself. "I've never seen you get so flustered before," he teased as he fired up the burners for the stove-top grill. "You really like it, huh?"

"…Just shut up and make the fish."

"You gonna ask me to wear this in bed now?," Rin chuckled. He seasoned the mackerel lightly, then set it on the grill. A quiet hissing noise rose up from the metal as the filets sizzled with an appetizing crackle.

"I'd never be able to cook with it again."

Rin turned to give him a sharp grin. "You could get another one."

"Shut up." Haru turned away, looking embarrassed. Rin sauntered up to him and hugged his waist.

"You're funny when you're embarrassed." He leaned in to give the black-haired boy a kiss on the neck.

"Cut it out." Haru kept trying to squirm away, but Rin held him tight, kissing his neck again and again. "Get off!," the black-haired boy protested as his cheeks turned pink again. "Go…cook. You'll burn the fish."

Rin laughed and gave Haru one last kiss before he let go. "Guess I wouldn't want to do that," he said as he went back toward the stove. "Don't want you to think I can't cook." He started tending to the mackerel, checking each filet gently before flipping it over. He felt himself blush, when Haru's arms slipped gently around his waist. The black-haired boy cuddled into his back, his cheek resting between Rin's shoulder blades.

"What are you doing?," Rin murmured with a little smile.

"…Keeping you warm," Haru replied.

"Hm." Rin chuckled a little. "You're dumb." He tried to look busy, poking the filets with his spatula every once in a while, but his conscious mind kept drifting back to how nice it felt, having Haru so close. He'd done the same thing to Haru so many times, and now, Haru was doing it back, and it felt so incredibly good, to be in Haru's arms.

When the fish was done, they reluctantly separated, so that Rin could retrieve the plates. Haru went out to sit at the table, while Rin finished pulling the mackerel off the grill. He brought the plates out to the table and set one down in front of Haru.

"There. Can I put my underwear back on now?"

Haru smirked a little as he picked up his chopsticks. "Yeah. You've done your punishment."

Rin went back to retrieve his boxers, then hurried upstairs to put on a shirt. By the time he got back, Haru had already eaten a few bites.

"Good?," Rin asked as he sat down to eat his own piece of fish. Haru nodded, and Rin felt his heart leap a little. A tiny smile played at his lips as he took his first bite.

Most of the meal was spent in silence, but as Rin finished off his filet, he decided to ask a question. "So what do you want to do today?," he asked as he cut his last piece of mackerel in two. "Go for a swim?"

"We're going out with Makoto today."

Rin's head snapped up at that. "What?"

Haru calmly shifted his gaze to Rin's face. "Didn't I tell you?," he murmured. "We're going to the market."

"Why?"

"Why not? I want to get some fresh stuff for dinner."

"Is Makoto joining us for that, too?"

Haru gave him a look. "…Yes…," he murmured. "…Is that a problem?"

"No," Rin muttered, turning back to his fish. "Why would it be a problem?"

Haru saw right through him, immediately picking up on his annoyance. "…Don't be an ass," the black-haired boy muttered. "He's your friend, too, isn't he?"

"Yeah, but…I was kind of looking forward to hanging out with you. Alone."

Haru sighed.

"We hang out as friends all the time!," Rin protested. "Is it so wrong, that I want some time with you where we don't have to pretend we're just friends?"

Haru cocked his head slightly. "…He doesn't care," he murmured. He was obviously a little confused, but trying not to show it. "I told you that, before."

Well, maybe I care, Rin thought bitterly. You ever think of that? He sat there, feeling stupid. Again, he was the annoying one, the one ruining everything with selfish insecurity. He was obviously confusing the crap out of Haru, who was just trying to be a decent boyfriend and figure out what he wanted. The black-haired boy understood the old Rin, the one who was free with his emotions and wouldn't have thought twice about showing off their relationship, but he just couldn't quite get a read, on this new Rin. Probably because Rin didn't understand his own feelings, half of the time. That younger Rin was still there, beneath all the painful insecurity and self-doubt, but sometimes, he got buried so deeply that no one could see him, not even Rin himself.

When Rin didn't say anything, Haru sighed quietly and took the dishes into the kitchen, leaving the red-haired boy alone. Rin sat there for a moment, staring at the table and feeling like an ass. Finally, he followed Haru into the kitchen, to try and make it right.

"Haru…I'm sorry, all right?," he said quietly. "I'm sorry I'm…being weird."

Haru set the dishes down on the counter and quietly went over to him. His eyes searched Rin's, as he took the red-haired boy's hand. "…It's fine," he murmured. "Just…stop."

"…I think I'm going out for a run, before Makoto gets here," Rin said quietly. "Do you want to come with me?"

"Sure," Haru murmured. "Let's just clean up first." He went back over to the sink, and Rin went with him. They did the dishes together: Rin dried, while Haru washed. Once everything was neatly put away, they went upstairs and put on their running gear. Rin always brought his workout gear to Haru's, so that he could run on the days he spent the night. As he pulled his hair back into a short little ponytail, he felt Haru come up behind him. A gentle hand brushed the small of his back.

"Ready?"

Rin turned and nodded, and they headed downstairs, out to the front of the house. Without a word, Rin took off at a comfortable jog, leaving Haru to catch up.

He didn't push himself too hard, today. He wasn't really in the mood for a tough workout, and he didn't want to give Haru the impression that he was trying to run away from him. Their run was silent: they both knew the route by heart, and thus had no need for words. Every so often, Rin looked over at Haru, just to look at him. Haru was handsome, when he ran, and he always seemed to be thinking about something: his ocean blue eyes looked distant, as though focused on something else entirely. Rin wondered what that something was, but he knew that it was probably one of those things that he would never understand. Not that this particularly bothered him: Haru's mysterious inner workings were part of his charm.

When they got back, Rin went into the bathroom for a quick shower. As he dried his hair, he heard someone else enter the house, and he sighed. When he finished up and went out to the living room, he wasn't at all surprised to find Makoto sitting there, looking at a magazine.

The brown-haired boy looked up when he came in, and gave him a little smile. "Hey, Rin," he said. "Haru went to put food out for the cats. He'll be back in a second."

"Oh."

At that moment, Haru came in through the sliding glass doors. "Ready to go?," Makoto called.

"Yeah."

As they turned to leave, Haru quietly took Rin's hand, but as soon as their fingers touched, all Rin could think about was how Makoto must be looking at them. How Makoto must be staring at them, thinking about them, wondering about them…he felt so uncomfortable that he pulled his hand away, and stuffed it into his pocket. He could see the silent hurt in Haru's eyes, and he felt even worse. As they left the house, Haru kept his distance, and an awful tension filled the air.

"It's such a nice day today," Makoto remarked, nervously trying to diffuse the awkwardness. "I bet the market will be busy." No one said anything. "So, what are we planning to get?," he asked. "What's on the menu for tonight?" He turned to Haru with a little smile.

"…Haven't decided yet," the black-haired boy murmured, keeping his eyes firmly on the ground. "I have to see what's good."

"Just get something besides mackerel, all right?," Rin grumbled. "I'm sick of mackerel."

Haru looked at him for a moment. "…Fine," he murmured, his eyes betraying nothing. "I'll get something else."

Makoto smiled. "While we're out, I should look for a birthday present, for my mom," he said. "Her birthday's next week, and I know there are some places by the market that sell that kind of stuff." They turned a corner, and their conversation dwindled again. The awkward tension was palpable between them. Rin kept thinking about Haru, how the black-haired boy must have been hurt by his reluctance to hold hands. Does he think I'm ashamed of him? Suddenly, he felt sick: 'ashamed' was the last thing he'd ever feel, about dating Haru. Haru was gentle, and gorgeous, and talented…Rin was proud, to call Haru his.

…Well, why can't I fucking act like it, then?

Now, he felt ashamed of himself. All he wanted was for Haru to know how much he loved him, but for some reason, he just couldn't bring himself to express it the way he wanted to. …It would scare him off, if he knew how much I loved him. That fear, that vulnerability…that was what was ruining everything, and making Rin fuck up, time after time. He didn't want Haru to feel overwhelmed, so he kept going too far the other way. He was forever feeling self-conscious, about the fact that he felt far too much, and far too strongly.

He was still lost inside his own head when they stopped in front of the market. Haru said something to him, but he didn't hear the first part of the sentence.

"What?"

"…Are you coming with me, or what?"

"Actually, do you mind if I take him with me?," Makoto interjected with a smile. "I always like to have a second opinion, with gifts." Rin side-eyed him a little, but decided not to say anything. He was afraid that if he went with Haru to the market, they'd fight again, and that was the last thing on Earth he wanted to do.

"Whatever," he said. "I'll go with Makoto, then. I don't care."

"…Fine," Haru murmured, his eyes unreadable. "I'll meet you guys later." He turned and went into the market, while Rin and Makoto continued down the street.

Rin's mind immediately started to wander, so he didn't realize it, when Makoto started talking to him.

"Rin?"

"…Hm?" Finally, the red-haired boy turned at the sound of his name.

"…I was just asking if you had any place you wanted to go, while we're here," Makoto repeated.

"What? Oh. No," Rin muttered. "Just…I don't care. Whatever." He looked down at the ground, his mind still stuck on Haru. Maybe I should have gone with him. Now he probably thinks I'm pissed at him.

Damn it.

"Rin?"

"What?"

Makoto gave him a timid smile. "…Are you ok?," he asked quietly. "You seem a little…edgy today."

"I'm the same as I always am," Rin muttered. "I don't know what you're talking about."

Makoto was quiet for a moment. "…I'm sorry, for dragging you away from Haru," he said. "I'm really not trying to get in between-"

"Why did you, then?," Rin grumbled, cutting him off.

"…Well…the real reason that I wanted you to come with me is that there's something I wanted to say to you, alone."

The red-haired boy looked at him tiredly. "What?," he sighed. "Just say it, then."

His obvious annoyance did nothing to dampen Makoto's gentle demeanor. "…I know, that you and Haru are dating," he began. "And I wanted to tell you that I'm happy, that you guys are finally together." He smiled. "I think it's great."

"…Like I need your blessing," Rin muttered. His face was starting to turn red.

"Well, nonetheless," Makoto said with a shrug. "And…honestly, it wouldn't come as a shock to anyone, if you guys started being a little more open around us. No one would mind."

"Did Haru tell you to tell me that?," Rin muttered.

"No," Makoto replied. "I said the same thing to him, when I found out. I just thought…that it might be easier for you guys, if you didn't feel like you had to hide it from us. That's all. It's ok, if you guys want to hold hands, or…whatever."

"What's so wrong with keeping things private?," Rin said in annoyance. "Maybe I don't want everyone keeping tabs on our relationship, waiting for me to screw it up."

"Rin…no one thinks you're going to screw it up," Makoto said gently. "You don't have to share anything with us, but I just wanted to let you know that it's ok to share things with us, if you want to." He paused for a moment and turned to face Rin, gently touching the red-haired boy's arm. "We're your friends," he said with a kind smile. "All of us would support you."

"…Whatever," Rin muttered. He felt his face turning red. "Thanks, I guess."

They continued their stroll in awkward silence, until they passed a little shop with animal figurines in the window. Rin paused, without saying why, and stared at the display. His attention had been caught by a pair of silver dolphins, sitting in the far left corner.

"…Do you want to go in?," Makoto asked. "I really do have to look for my mom's birthday present."

"Sure," Rin murmured. "Whatever." They entered the shop, and a bell sounded lightly. Rin immediately headed over to the shelf with the little silver dolphins and stared at them for a while, wondering if he should get one for Haru. He'd never done anything like that before: buy a gift, for no particular reason. He looked down at the dolphins, quietly selecting his favorite. There was one near the back that reminded him of Haru. It had a quiet air of self-possession about it: it was standing on its tail, looking him calmly in the eye.

"Haru would like those."

Rin turned at the sound of Makoto's voice. The brown-haired boy was looking over his shoulder, giving him a little smile. Embarrassed, Rin just nodded and turned back to the dolphins. He felt Makoto move away.

He scanned the other figurines nearby, but his eyes kept coming back to that one dolphin in the back. Eventually, he picked it up and turned it over in his hands. He could always give it later, as a birthday present. Haru's birthday wasn't for a while, but…it was never too early to start preparing, right? That was what he told himself, at least, when he went up to the register and set the silver dolphin down on the counter.

"What a lovely choice!," the shop girl said with a friendly smile. "A present for someone?"

"Yeah," Rin muttered quickly. So what if it is? He turned his gaze to the counter, feeling embarrassed.

"Well, I'm sure she's going to love it," she replied. "Would you like it gift-wrapped?"

"No," Rin said immediately. "I'll…wrap it myself."

"All right," she said with a little shrug. "Just thought I'd ask." She gave him his total and started wrapping the little dolphin in a thin swathe of tissue paper. She put it in a small plastic bag and handed the bag to Rin, along with his change. Rin quickly stuffed it into his pocket and went to find Makoto. The brown-haired boy was still browsing the shelves, but he turned when he noticed Rin approaching.

"Ready to go?," he asked. Rin nodded, and they took leave of the shop.

"Haru's probably done by now," the brown-haired boy said. "We should probably go back and meet him."

"Yeah," Rin murmured. On their way back to the market entrance, a question began to percolate in his mind: it sat on the tip of his tongue for a long moment, before he decided to voice it out loud. "Makoto…do you think Haru's pissed at me?"

Makoto looked at him quietly for a moment. "Why would he be?," the brown-haired boy murmured.

Rin felt stupid, but he couldn't keep his anxieties quiet anymore. "…You saw, when he tried to hold my hand, and I pulled it away," he said softly. "…I just…I think I fucked up."

Makoto's eyes softened a little. "Rin…why do you always think you're messing something up?," he asked.

"Because I am," Rin muttered. A little tear started to gather in the corner of his eye. "I always fuck everything up."

"No, you don't."

"Yeah, I do," Rin argued. "I always say something stupid, because I can't fucking…get a grip."

"…Rin, Haru's not going to ditch you because you have feelings, and opinions. He knows how you are. If he had a problem with it, he wouldn't be with you. That's just how he is."

"I just…it feels like all it would take is one little thing, you know? He decides I'm not worth it, or that I'm too much, and that's it, I'm gone." Rin's eyes were quietly tearing up. "And I know that he hates all this stupid emotional crap."

"But he's still with you." Makoto gave the red-haired boy a moment to absorb this. "He knows your flaws, and you know his. If he's with you, he's already decided that you're worth it, and it would take a lot, to change his mind. …It might be hard to believe, but he really does get attached to people, when he lets himself, and he's willing to put up with a lot more than he lets on. …Deep down, I think he's just as scared of losing you as you are of losing him."

Rin glanced at him. "…How do you know?," he murmured quietly.

Makoto's eyes glimmered a little. "Just trust me," he said softly. "…I know him. I've known him for a long time."

Suddenly, Rin remembered something that Haru had said to him, more than once: "You're dumb, annoying, an idiot…but I like you anyway." Even when he didn't say the last part out loud, it was always apparent in the way he said it, in his tone. He knew that Rin had flaws, but he liked Rin anyway. He'd been telling Rin this same thing all along, in his own way.

Haru's right, Rin thought to himself. I really am an idiot.

Finally, they saw Haru, standing on the corner with a plastic bag in each hand. The black-haired boy had obviously been waiting for them.

"Sorry we took so long," Makoto said with a little smile. "Did you get everything you wanted?"

Haru nodded. "We should go, before the fish spoils."

"Here, let me carry one of those," Rin said. He took the bag from Haru's left hand and switched it into his own. Then, as they left the market, Rin quietly reached out to hold Haru's hand. The black-haired boy looked over, when he felt Rin's gentle fingers on his: his eyes registered mild surprise, but he didn't say anything.

"…I'm sorry, Haru," Rin said softly, so that Makoto might not hear. "I didn't mean to be a dick."

"…It's fine," Haru murmured back. I like you anyway.

Rin gave his hand a little squeeze, and he felt Haru squeeze back. I love you, he wanted to murmur softly. I'll always love you, no matter what.

Instead, he stayed silent. He held Haru's hand for the entire walk back, but he didn't say anything. Makoto also stayed quiet, much to Rin's relief. Wisely, the brown-haired boy had chosen to pretend that nothing was different.

When they got back to Haru's house, the two boys quietly disengaged so that Haru could start putting the groceries away. Rin and Makoto helped him, and when they were done, they went out to the living room. As Makoto opened the sliding doors to let in more light, Rin took a seat on one of Haru's floor pillows, and Haru sat down beside him. The black-haired boy scooted a little closer, and his hand bumped against the lump in Rin's pocket.

"…What do you have in your pants?," Haru murmured, looking down.

"Oh. I, um…here. This is yours. I mean, I got it for you." His cheeks flushed with embarrassment as he handed Haru the tissue paper bundle.

"What is it?"

"Just look at it," Rin said, sounding slightly annoyed. "Don't ask me stupid questions." He looked down at the ground: he didn't want to see Haru's reaction, whatever it might be.

The black-haired boy carefully unwrapped the tissue paper, revealing the little silver dolphin. He examined it for a moment, holding it up and running his thumb over the smooth metal.

"Why'd you get me this?"

"Just…because," Rin muttered. "I don't know. Why, don't you like it?"

"…I really like it." Rin finally looked at Haru, and saw that his ocean-blue eyes were glimmering happily as he looked the dolphin over. "…Thanks," the black-haired boy said softly. The smile in his eyes made Rin's heart swell with pride: he'd finally done something right. He'd made Haru happy.

"Just…don't expect me to start buying you stuff all the time," he said, trying to tamp down the rising happiness within him. "I just…saw it, and I wanted to get it for you." Haru gently slipped his arms around Rin's waist.

"I really like it," he repeated quietly. He laid his head gently on Rin's shoulder, and the red-haired boy allowed himself a smile.

"Good," he murmured as he hugged Haru back. "I'm glad." Makoto had strategically chosen to disappear for a moment, so Rin leaned down and gave his boyfriend a little kiss on the lips. Haru smiled at him a little, and he couldn't help but smile back.

"You're so amazing, Haru," he said in quiet English. "I adore you."

Haru paused for a moment, looking directly into Rin's eyes. Then, in clear English, he murmured the following words: "Rin…I adore you, too."

Rin froze, his eyes widening.

"I've been studying," Haru explained, a tiny smirk playing in his eyes. "Took me forever to figure out what word you were saying. Turns out it's just another way to say 'I love you.'" He gave Rin a sweet kiss on the lips.

"Uh…" Rin's cheeks were beginning to match his hair. "…Your pronunciation was horrible, though," he mumbled, attempting to deflect. "Your 'r's need a lot of work."

"Well, guess who's going to have to help me, then?," Haru sighed. "…You're an idiot, you know that?" He pulled Rin into another kiss, and this time, neither could seem to pull away. In that moment, all of Rin's inhibitions faded into the background: the overwhelming emotion he felt for this quiet black-haired boy was simply too strong, too all-consuming to be called anything but love.

"…Fuck it," he breathed when they parted for a moment. "…I love you, Haru. ...'I love you' isn't even enough, but I love you, more than you'll ever know."

"I love you, too," Haru replied softly. "…I just can't believe it took you this long to say it."