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we were breathing underwater

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~

 

He’s taking a while in the shower. Not that he really needs to, exactly, since he’s been standing there for a good twelve minutes already without doing anything, but the showers here are spacious, more so than the ones at Iwatobi, and the water running down his body relaxes him enough for his eyes to close.

He can’t swim in the shower, obviously, but letting the water flow, hitting his chest, sliding clear trails down his stomach, over his shoulder blades, along the ridge of his spine and lower still -- there’s a sort of satisfying blaze left behind on his skin after the hot water leaves it, and he finds himself angling his shoulders, twisting this way and that to feel it just a moment longer, until he realizes with a start that the sounds of Samezuka’s captain showering have vanished, replaced by hollow silence.

Haru shuts off the water, lets the echoes die, lets his body cool, and shakes the droplets out of his hair before they can chase each other down his face.

“You done, Nanase?” Mikoshiba calls out, his voice ringing metallic gold against the walls of the changing room.

I wish I wasn’t, Haru wants to say, a twisting in his gut as he slides one last look at the showerhead before stepping out, settling his towel around his shoulders.

-- And stops.

“We could continue in here, if you really don’t want to leave the shower behind,” Mikoshiba quips with a small quirk of his lips, and Haru still doesn’t do anything except stare at him.

It’s ridiculous, right, because Haru knows that Mikoshiba’s hair isn’t naturally prone to sticking up like he typically sees it, but he’s never seen it hanging just into his eyes, either, soft orange against the tan skin of his neck, and it startles Haru how much gentler the other boy looks, like that, the angles of his cheekbones rounded by the way his hair falls against it.

“I don’t know if you typically walk around naked, Nanase,” Mikoshiba tries, “But if we’re going to head back to my room you kind of need to put clothes on.”

-- It’s ridiculous, Haru thinks again, that the way Mikoshiba smiles reminds him just the smallest bit of the way Makoto smiles.

“Yeah,” he says instead, his voice rougher than he thought it’d be, and pulls his Iwatobi jacket around his bare shoulders. Or tries to. It slips from his fingers and falls straight onto the wet floor of the shower and he can’t help the look of blank disgust on his face.

“If you’re tired,” Mikoshiba starts, and Haru wants to think he hears disappointment in his voice but he isn’t sure, “I’ll just walk you to the station.”

Mikoshiba has a longer strand of hair that almost reaches the bridge of his nose, kind of the same way that Makoto’s hair lies, and Haru feels his heart plummet into the pit of his stomach.

“No. I’m fine.”

He manages to pull on the lower half of his clothing without any mishaps, and fishes his jacket out by the tips of his fingers. “Is there a -- laundry machine around, or…?”

“I’ll drop it in on the way back,” Mikoshiba assures him, and tosses him his own jacket. “Here.”

This time Haru makes sure to hold onto the fabric very tightly. It’s warm against his skin, dry, but somehow leaves the same kind of satisfaction he felt earlier in the shower, with the water rippling over him. Mikoshiba laughs. “You look like you could swim in that.”

“Thanks,” Haru says. He isn’t sure if he’s joking or not. He suspects he isn’t.

 

 

Haru gets the feeling that he’s… confused, on the walk to Mikoshiba’s dorm, Mikoshiba carrying the sopping jacket. They make a detour by the laundry room, but otherwise it’s quiet, his breath hanging against his ribs, the cold pressing each exhale into a thin white line, seeping into the sleeves of his -- no, Mikoshiba’s -- jacket.

He shivers. Sneezes.

“Did you even dry your hair, Nanase,” Mikoshiba asks, and before Haru can protest, there’s a light tugging on his hair. “It’s freezing outside, holy shit. Here, take this too. Can’t have you sneezing all over my pillow.”

Mikoshiba jams his scarf around Haru’s neck. It’s warm, too, and Haru shivers again.

The first thing he gets, when Mikoshiba shuts the door again, is a cup of hot water.

“I’m not cold,” he says, quiet, taking in the room again, even though there’s not much different from last week. Mikoshiba has a lot of books on swimming and a few English novels that he recognizes are actually Rin’s, plus a computer science textbook; his laptop is shut, powered off; there’s a jacket hanging from the back of his chair, navy blue, three mugs that looks clean on his desk.

“You look cold. Drink up.”

“Thanks,” Haru tries, again, and the water sears his tongue.

While he’s working his way through the scorching liquid, Mikoshiba takes a seat on his bed, relaxed, comfortable. “So.”

“Yeah.”

“Are you sure you want to do this,” Mikoshiba says next, which is pretty much the opposite of what Haru expected, so of course he swallows down the wrong way and ends up slamming the mug onto Mikoshiba’s desk, coughing. There’s a clapping on his back the next moment, followed by a hand rubbing along his spine. “God, Nanase. We don’t have to, seriously. You look like you’re about to --”

“You said you could teach me,” Haru reminds him between coughs. Mikoshiba’s hands don’t stop moving until he sits back, feeling horribly embarrassed. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to.”

“Okay. Okay. You’re okay?”

“I’m not going to die, if that’s what you’re wondering. It’s just water.”

Mikoshiba makes a movement like he’s about to flinch, but is trying not to, and this is probably because Haru’s been spending a lot of time with Makoto, but he feels… bad.

“... Sorry. I’m okay.”

Haru tries very hard not to stare at the way Mikoshiba nods, just once, or at the way his eyelids slide shut before they’re kissing, again, gentle, and when Mikoshiba pulls away, there’s a moment when Haru feels himself chasing.

“Ah, good, you remember that,” Mikoshiba says simply. His hands are gentle too, from where they’re holding Haru steady. Haru wants to say something back, something about how he likes this more than he thought he would, or something about how he likes the way Mikoshiba’s hair is soft against his fingers, but instead he just leans in again. They kiss a few more times, warming up, before Mikoshiba draws away and gestures towards his bed.

He changed his sheets, Haru realizes in a daze. They were dark blue last time, kind of the same color as the jacket on the chair. Now they’re slate grey.

He strips off his sweatpants and jacket, but leaves his boxers on, settling into the mattress with a feeling of awful finality. Mikoshiba hovers over him in a similar state of undress, last trace of uncertainty slowly vanishing from his face. For a minute, Haru wants to stop. But he also -- doesn’t, somehow, and instead of trying to put that kind of feeling into words and struggling, he hooks his hands over the back of Mikoshiba’s neck and pulls him down.

Mikoshiba’s skin is just as warm as it looks, even after being out in the cold. Haru’s glad. His movements are swift, but deliberate, mouthing along Haru’s jaw, which feels just as weird as he remembered but also nicer, down his neck in a blazing trail, warm on the jut of his collar bone.

After a moment, or maybe a hundred moments, Haru’s aware of Mikoshiba’s mouth on his nipple, and it feels kind of like someone pushed him backwards into the pool, his entire world arching into a point of impact before the water, something powerful jolting all over his body, causing him to gasp and cant his hips against Mikoshiba, hard.

“Fuck, Nanase,” Mikoshiba mutters softly, pulling upwards to look at him, and Haru thinks that his face probably looks stunned. Probably. He can’t pull it back into neutral just yet and he can’t bring himself to care either. Then Mikoshiba grins. “You really like that, huh?”

“Just,” Haru tries, and it comes out breathless, so he takes a breath and tries again, “just don’t,” and it’s still breathless, but Mikoshiba seems to get the message and flicks his tongue over that spot, causing everything Haru’s been wanting to convey to come out in a hard rush of air and, oh God, he just moaned, didn’t he? -- and Mikoshiba, he’s, he’s using teeth -- Haru’s world flips into yellow for a brief, terrifying moment, like he’s about to yell --

and then Mikoshiba stops, grinning, and says, like he didn’t just nearly witness Haru squirming and moaning on his bed, “I wonder where else?”

“Where else what,” Haru rasps, dreading what was to come but also wanting it with all of his being.

Mikoshiba shakes his head, making his hair kind of flop all over his forehead, and then positions himself further down, his lips pausing an inch away from Haru’s stomach. It’s a terrible, terrible intimate kind of moment, Haru shivering hard against sheets damp with sweat, while Mikoshiba lifts his eyes to glance briefly at him before dipping his head down and kissing the smooth skin there.

It’s. Hot. It’s frightening. He likes it, and his stomach muscles jump slightly. Mikoshiba makes a noise in the back of his throat, which sounds almost edible, and trails his lips down even further, where Haru’s skin is too tender and too sensitive for him to keep quiet about it.

Haru gets the urge to do something, and he isn’t exactly sure what, but his fingers tangle themselves into Mikoshiba’s hair, and then he croaks out: “Wait.”

“Okay.”

Haru wets his lips. “What. Um. Do you need. What do you.”

Mikoshiba, true to his word, waits.

-- And he’s gotten so good  at talking about his feelings, too, but this is… a different sort of feeling. He clears his throat. “Do you want me to.”

“To…?”

“...Do anything?”

It’s very quiet for about a whole minute, quiet enough that the walls seem to start vibrating with electricity. And then Mikoshiba starts laughing, not the loud, boisterous laugh Haru always hears from him, but a quiet sort of chuckle that comes with a quiet sort of smile that kind of goes straight towards his groin.

“Is this something you’re interested in learning too?”

“You just. I’m not… I haven’t… done anything.”

“Well, you fucked me last week,” Mikoshiba points out.

“You did most of the work,” Haru frowns. Which is really great, since he’s been trying to get through this as effortlessly as possible, and now he kind of wants to draw it out forever.

Mikoshiba considers this seriously. “Okay. Fair.” He flips them over in a neat roll, making Haru’s world spin, until he’s looking down at Mikoshiba and feels distinctly lost.

“So what do I --”

“Why don’t you try taking the lead, Nanase,” Mikoshiba prompts.

Easier said than done, Haru thinks, because without Mikoshiba taking the lead, he realizes he actually doesn’t know what to do, and is holding himself as far away from the other boy as he possibly can without actually getting up, and it’s so different looking at Mikoshiba at this angle, like he’s seeing something he shouldn’t be seeing, like this angle is reserved for someone else.

“Hey. Relax.”

Haru stiffens around the shoulders.

“Just start with what you know, right?”

Right. What he knows. Haru takes a breath, the kind he takes before he dives, and leans down to kiss him. It’s okay, he guesses. Nudges Mikoshiba’s lips apart with his tongue, also okay. They did this last week, and it was fine, Haru thinks, and he can do it again and it’ll still be fine, and then he stops thinking about last week and lets the kissing take over, pressing forwards and tentatively licking into Mikoshiba’s mouth, which doesn’t taste like anything but is hot, breathing through his nose, liking the feel of something so solid holding him, supporting him.

He pulls back after a while, lips tingling, and realizes that Mikoshiba’s lips are swollen. Nicely.

“See,” Mikoshiba says, “see, that wasn’t so bad.”

“Yeah.”

“You want to scope things out a little. See what your partner likes, pay attention to how they react,” at which point Haru brushes his hand down Mikoshiba’s chest, eliciting an appreciative hum.

“And then try different things,” Mikoshiba continues, the smallest thread of air in his voice. “And work your way down from there.”

“Literally down, or,” Haru asks before he can stop himself. Mikoshiba raises an eyebrow.

“What do you think?”

Literally it is, then. Haru nips at Mikoshiba’s bare skin, following a similar trail to the one Mikoshiba had used on him, but he’s uncertain, moving too fast, and nothing’s really happening aside from the occasional murmur until he kisses a spot slightly above Mikoshiba’s left hip and feels the warm body jerk in response.

“Here?”

“God, yeah,” Mikoshiba groans, so Haru tries different things, starting with his tongue, and then lightly using his teeth, and Mikoshiba makes these half-held back sounds which sends blood rushing towards his dick, which just encourages him even more, especially when he feels strong fingers at his head.

So there’s something to this whole sex thing after all, Haru thinks, as he lifts his head up and wipes at his mouth, because Mikoshiba looks like he’s been sailed into the wide blue ocean, and it’s a really good look on him with his face all open and content and flushed.

“So,” Haru starts, climbing back up. “Is that it, or…”

“It’s,” Mikoshiba pauses, “a hell of a good start.”

“Okay.”

“Still want to keep going?”

Haru shrugs, and then nods, and then bites his lip.

“Tell me if you want to stop,” Mikoshiba says, very seriously, “I’ll stop. Okay?”

“Yeah. Okay.”

“Alright. Let me get lube and condoms,” and Haru’s kind of pleased to ease off and watch Mikoshiba rolling over and off the bed, muscles shifting beneath skin, with a few red marks from where sheet wrinkles were. He lies back down, watching, waiting.

Somewhere in the back of his mind it occurs to him that he’s a little nervous. He tries to ignore it.

Mikoshiba returns with items on hand, tucks them into the crevice between the mattress and the wall. “I’m going to take your boxers off now, okay?”

“I can do that myself,” Haru almost snaps. Shit.

“Trying to set the mood here, Nanase.”

“... Yeah. I’m… sorry, I’m just…”

“I mean it when I said I’ll stop if you want to.”

“I know.” Takes a deep breath, closes his eyes, opens them. “Okay.”

Mikoshiba eases his boxers off his legs slowly, like he’s savoring it, Haru trying to be useful by lifting his hips and bending his knees and almost kicking him in the face. There’s another quiet laugh lost in the scuffle, before Haru’s boxers end up somewhere on the floor, and then Mikoshiba’s slicking up his hand and wrapping it around his dick, which feels good.

Not startling, like last week. Just good.

He hisses.

“Too cold?”

“No, it’s fine.”

Mikoshiba continues stroking him, forefinger rubbing along his slit, which is a whole other sensation that makes him twist until his face is partially smushed into the pillow, a bitten off moan slipping into the fabric. It doesn’t take more than a few seconds longer to bring him to full hardness, fingers trying to grab hold onto something and only succeeding in curling into fists, breath tumbling out faster than waterfalls.

“Can you open a little more, here,” Mikoshiba asks, his voice almost strained, and then he eases Haru’s legs apart, slowly. “This okay?”

“Yes.” Haru hears his own voice as terse, high.

“Okay, breathe, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Mikoshiba coats more lube onto his fingers, which Haru infers from the slick sounds more than sight, and then he feels something, Mikoshiba’s finger, cool and warm at the same time circling his hole before slipping in.

He lets out a breath. It feels really strange, like he has to relearn how to exhale. Like he has a whole other body part he didn’t know about. He looks down to see Mikoshiba eyeing him and he gives a tense nod. The finger slides in a little further, and he feels -- full, already. Doesn’t know how anything else is going to fit in there. Doesn’t know how, or when, it’ll feel good, or why people make a big fuss about it either.

“Breathe,” Mikoshiba reminds him again, and he tries his best -- it’s odd that breathing in the water is actually easier compared to this. He feels Mikoshiba’s finger moving, slow, careful, in and out. “I’m going to add another one, okay?”

“Sure.” Haru tries not to notice the way Mikoshiba is looking at him, careful and concerned, and then Mikoshiba adds another finger and he flinches, tightening up instantly.

“Hey. Relax? It’ll be okay. Breathe.”

He breathes, shallow. It -- it hurts, and he doesn’t like it, doesn’t want anything to move at all, doesn’t want Mikoshiba to move even though his fingers are still in him, just wants something to distract him. Something else. He waits for the pain to die down and it does, eventually, a little.

“Did I hurt you,” he manages to get out, “last week?”

“Nah. Used to it. My fingers are bigger than yours, anyway.”

“Okay.” He wants to make sure, but thinks that speaking might actually cause the the burn to get worse, so he doesn’t. Instead he shifts, very slightly, and huffs into the pillow. “Slow… slow down?”

“Nanase, I’m not moving.”

“Okay.” Well. “... Move, then.”

Mikoshiba does, with a commendable level of self-control. It’s tight, full. Haru’s mouth falls open and he realizes that his heels are resting over Mikoshiba’s shoulders, and there’s a wrinkle in the sheets under his back, and the sky is greying with snow outside, anything to get his mind off the uncomfortable feeling of being stretched more than he’s ever been before, until Mikoshiba removes his fingers for a moment and muses,

“Let me see if this helps,” and then takes the head of his cock into his mouth.

“Ah --”

Yeah, it does help, especially now that he’s more concerned with accidentally thrusting down Mikoshiba’s throat. Mikoshiba hums, sucks lightly, bobs his head up and down slowly, and then sneakily starts moving his fingers again. Haru finds that it isn’t as bad this time.

After a bit longer, Mikoshiba starts using a slight scissoring motion, still licking at his cock, and that’s when Haru finally gets it, the key to relaxing. It helps if he kind of sneaks glances down at how Mikoshiba’s lips are wrapped around him, how he can sort of see the outline of himself through Mikoshiba’s cheek, even if it startles him that he’d find something like that attractive.

Mikoshiba releases him with a soft noise, licks his lips and asks, “Better?”

“Yeah. A lot.” He tries to swallow, can’t manage it. “Better.”

“You don’t sound too convinced.”

“I don’t get it,” Haru admits after a beat, right before Mikoshiba’s fingers go in as deep as they can, and then curl slightly, and that’s when he thinks he floats right off the mattress, his world blinking completely out, a wave of heat ripping through his body from the pit of his stomach.

Oh, Haru thinks. Oh.

“I want to say you’re convinced now,” says Mikoshiba, and maybe it’s because Haru’s brain has shut off or something, but he just lies there panting, legs quivering, trying to decide if he’ll survive another moment like that or not. Mikoshiba laughs, lips ghosting over the head of Haru’s cock. “We’re just getting started, Nanase.”

Haru swallows. “Can you do that again?” he says, or at least, that’s what he tries to say. Somewhere between the ‘you’ and ‘do’ Mikoshiba’s fingers brush over that spot again, rough and unexpected, causing Haru’s hips to jerk up and a hoarse shout to rip itself from his throat and pull, like a fishing line, a long, low moan afterwards. “Fuck.”

So he kind of zones out after that, his vision driven into some kind of glowing nebula of pleasure as Mikoshiba fingers him, rubbing against him and then adding a third finger that has Haru stuffing the hem of a duvet between his teeth in an effort to keep the noise level down. And then, finally, finally, Mikoshiba stops, pulling out his fingers, leaving him shuddering deeply into the sheets, gasping for breath, achingly hard, his cheeks so hot that the warmth of the pillowcase actually feels cool.

“I think you’re good to go,” is all Mikoshiba says, although he sounds almost as destroyed as Haru feels.

Haru has a few moments to catch his breath while Mikoshiba strips out of his boxers and rolls a condom on, then lubing up, pumping himself a few times for good measure. It’s not enough, exactly. He still feels like he’s floating, or maybe sinking, or maybe both.

“Alright there?”

“Fine.”

Mikoshiba positions himself, the head of his cock pushing against him, and for one hysterical moment Haru thinks that it isn’t going to fit after all. Then he’s about halfway in, and Haru hears a breathy moan echo around the room before he realizes that it’s his own, remote and removed and very far away.

“Breathe, Nanase,” Mikoshiba chants through clenched teeth, which actually does help, because Haru does, and feels himself relax almost instantly. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah. Yeah, just… slow.”

“Yeah. Of course.”

It’s so different, Haru’s thinking, from being inside someone. He feels too full, almost, like he can’t move, and every time Mikoshiba presses forward, even a little, it feels like a huge increment. It takes a while before Mikoshiba’s all the way in, their hips pressed together, Haru’s legs wrapped loosely around him for balance. For a minute it’s all Haru can do to gape into the other boy’s face, recalling how swiftly Mikoshiba had kind of just taken him all in, and realizing how different it is now, how Mikoshiba’s being careful, and how rushed and impatient everything was last week.

A low groan rumbles from somewhere in Mikoshiba’s chest cavity. Haru has the blinding desire to scream.

And he still feels kind of like he shouldn’t be the person doing this.

Mikoshiba presses their foreheads together, which Haru thinks is more for reassurance than anything else, but his eyes are so close that he can imagine the brush of eyelashes against his skin with each blink. “Breathing?”

“I’m still alive,” Haru assures him. “But. Can you stay still for -- a second?”

“Okay.” Haru waits. Counts the seconds, four, five, using the weight of Mikoshiba’s forehead against his as a distraction, nine, ten.

Breathes. Feels stretched still, maxed out.

“Kiss,” he breathes out, quiet. Distraction.

“Good idea,” says Mikoshiba, and does so, slanting their lips together, moves in familiar patterns, until Haru feels himself relax again.

“Move?”

“Yeah,” and Mikoshiba pulls out, about halfway, before sliding back. “Are you --”

“I’m okay.” He hopes. “You don’t need to be so careful.”

“I don’t want to affect your swimming,” Mikoshiba replies with a half-smile. But he moves again, a tiny bit more, pulling out further, pushing in a little faster, his cock sliding along inside Haru, slick and searing.

“I’ll be fine,” Haru insists, hears that his voice is kind of shaking. “You can… go faster.”

“God,” Mikoshiba remarks, and does so, his movements fluid and steady and completely unlike Haru’s jerky half-there thrusts from last time, and it makes him feel half-dumb with how addictive it is, how the bed creaking a little just makes him want to moan louder over it, how unbelievably hot everything is, inside him, against him, how Mikoshiba’s eyes are half-closed, cat-like.

“You’re -- probably going to keep hearing this, Nanase,” Mikoshiba says roughly against the corner of his jaw, “but you’re so gorgeous,” and he angles his hips differently so that he slides over that spot inside Haru, causing Haru’s hands to move from their grip on his arms to hook over his neck, desperately pulling him in for a kiss, for something tangible to buck against, anything.

The possibility that he might actually really, sincerely enjoy this dawns on him. That he likes the feeling of Mikoshiba’s cock in him, hot and hard, and he likes the feeling of damp skin slipping against his own, and he likes the weight of Mikoshiba shifting on top of him, and he likes when they kiss, messy and hurried and hungry.

“And you feel so fucking good,” continues Mikoshiba, like it’s the last thing he’ll ever want to convince anyone of, and maybe it’s partly because no one’s ever been this bare and honest like this with Haru before, not like this, and it’s definitely because no one’s ever fucked him before while saying those words either, but release pools low in his stomach without warning, snapping through his body in a flash, causing him to tighten his legs around Mikoshiba and slam back against him with a frantic cry. He thinks his vision might have actually exploded, or he might have snapped his spine with how much he’s arching up.

Mikoshiba continues to fuck him for a moment longer before Haru feels him come with a sharp, choked swear.

Oh, he thinks again. And then he can’t really think too much at all.

 

 

There’s a soothing pressure along the curve of his cheek, heat flickering like a candle against his stomach, and then something cool and damp wiping against his skin, a hum that sounds amused.

“Seijuurou,” Haru tries to say, just that one time, but decides that the name doesn’t fit between his teeth yet, and zones back out.

 

 

He must have fallen asleep after that, at least for a few minutes, because when he opens his eyes he’s been cleaned up, judging from how the covers are pulled over him and the lack of stickiness everywhere, but he’s still naked. Not that it bothers him too much.

Mikoshiba’s sitting in his chair, flipping through one of his swimming books. His hair’s still messy.

“What time is it,” Haru whispers. Not all the words make it out.

“What?”

“Time,” he tries again. His throat feels dry.

“About five in the afternoon. I thought I’d let you sleep a little bit, since you looked kind of… worn out.” Mikoshiba looks kind of like he wants to say something else, but doesn’t, instead handing him his clothes. “I picked up your jacket from the laundry room while you were asleep.”

“Thank you,” says Haru, bleary.

“Next train will be here in about half an hour, unless you want to hang out here longer.”

“I should get home. Makoto will be worried, probably.” He sits up, covers falling away, cold air swarming eagerly around his hot skin. Mikoshiba’s looking at him with a curious expression. “What?”

“I didn’t even touch you,” Mikoshiba says, slowly, “that’s new.”

It takes a moment for Haru to process what he’s getting at. In the process he puts his clothes back on. “So?”

“Nothing. No, it’s just good knowledge to have.”

There are about two hundred more pauses in this conversation than there should be, even for Haru. He sits criss-cross on Mikoshiba’s bed, letting the drifting seconds slowly sweep by. Everything feels heavy, except around his stomach, which feels hollow. Like someone had taken out the insides.

It’s funny, because he didn’t care much last time, except for the vague feeling of oh, this is alright. Like a puppet he rises from the bed, walking woodenly towards the door.

“You feeling okay?” asks Mikoshiba, snapping his book shut.

“Yeah. Yes. I’ll just… stand on the train. Um.”

“You look kind of pale, Nanase --”

“I’m not --” -- I don’t know what to do, “I’m always pale. My skin is naturally pale.”

“I can’t read your mind like Tachibana can,” Mikoshiba says. “So if you have thoughts, spill.”

“I need a moment,” Haru whips out, and it’s unsettling still how much he kind of wants to crawl back into Mikoshiba’s bed and sleep for another twelve hours. “I’m just, it’s not -- I’m not a robot, okay? My best friends just started dating and I called you out of sheer stupidity, and then this happened and it felt good, and I don’t know what to do about any of it.”

“I’m going to need you to slow down,” says Mikoshiba, “and probably sit back down, unless you can’t.”

Haru takes a very cautious seat back onto Mikoshiba’s bed. He winces. Mikoshiba’s quiet for another moment before speaking, this time in a voice closer to what Haru’s used to hearing.

“I’m not suggesting that you come back here next week unless you want another round, because that would be sheer stupidity, as you said earlier, but here’s a spare key to the pool, if you need to think about things.” Haru watches as Mikoshiba opens a desk drawer and picks something out of it, and then as he offers up the small, golden key. “Feel free to use it whenever, just make sure to return it to me before I graduate in the spring --”

The key feels weightless in Haru’s palm. He examines it, noting the tiny embossed shark head on the bow and how if he holds it tightly enough, he gets an imprint of it on his finger.  “Thanks.”

 

 

He doesn’t make that train, in the end. He sits on the bed with the slate grey sheets and discusses swimming with Mikoshiba, and lets Mikoshiba tell him about Kyoto, where he wants to go to school, in the general unassuming way that doesn’t include questioning Haru about his own future. It’s nice to sort of be talked at like this, kind of like the way Makoto used to do, until he’s trying to picture the cherry blossoms and what Rin’s face might look like if he ever visited there instead of trying to place the hollow feeling in his stomach.

He ends up making the 6:35 train with barely a minute to spare, a realm of possibilities sitting in his pocket and the weight of Mikoshiba’s parting shoulder pat still pressing warmth into his arm.

The white cat that Makoto insists on cooing at every time he sees it is curled up on the half-frozen steps up to his house surveying him with an expression of apathetic disdain, and for some reason that Haru thinks might be lost at sea, he scoops the cat up into his arms and takes her home.