Chapter 1: Okaeri
In the grand scheme of things, the Misagozaki shrine really isn’t all that impressive. Structurally speaking, it’s not much different from countless other haiden scattered across Japan. There are definitely larger shrines, more unique and elaborate ones, some of them famous. The majority of the world likely hasn’t even heard of the town in which the Misagozaki is located, never mind where in Japan Iwatobi is and that this particular haiden even exists. Makoto quietly sighs, it a mixture of relief and delight, as he lays a gentle hand against the structure from where he’d settled onto the stone steps after pulling his fortune. He won’t complain about that a bit. It means that nothing about it has changed in the time that he’s been gone. The shrine is still his.
Makoto laughs softly as soon as the thought comes. It isn’t technically true, of course, and he’s sure that the few thousand other citizens of Iwatobi would take great offense if any one of them tried to claim it as their own, even if he had grown up closer to it than most. The shrine is as much a part of their sleepy seaside town as the harbors and docks, as the ocean itself; it’s part of what makes Iwatobi what it is. It’s a part of home, and Makoto can’t be happier than to have returned to it. Another soft chuckle leaves his upturned lips. Eight years in Tokyo, but he’s still a small-town boy at heart. And he doesn’t mind that a bit, either.
When Makoto had left Iwatobi for university at eighteen, he’d known that he’d be back. There hadn’t been much to do in Iwatobi save for the beaches and the occasional festival, but it had never bothered him. He’d swam and windsurfed, had biked and played basketball, the latter for fun and for the school clubs, and he’d had his family and friends. It had been more than enough for a him. A homebody, his friend Kisumi had called him on more than one occasion, and Makoto had never minded. It had suited him then, and still did. Iwatobi was still where his heart felt at home, even though his father had moved his family to Osaka for work once his twin siblings had finished with Junior High. Makoto’s gaze shifts down the mountain, in the direction of his childhood home. It had been bittersweet to hear kids laughing in that yard, knowing they weren’t Ran and Ren, but he truly is glad that the house has a family again.
With another brief touch, to the stone beside him this time, Makoto stands. He smiles as he carefully tucks his fortune into his pocket. He’d drawn a great blessing and he feels like it’s already come to him. The six-year accelerated program for his Doctor of Physical Therapy had been as exhausting as it’d been intense, and he’d served his internship under a mentor with an ego larger than Japan, but he wouldn’t trade any of it. It doesn’t matter that the other job he’d been offered in Tokyo would have paid more. He’s back home again, ready to start his new position at Iwatobi’s outpatient therapy center on Monday, and he still has three full days to just enjoy being home. Once he finishes unpacking, that is, Makoto reminds himself with a slight sigh.
After another glance over his shoulder at the shrine, Makoto starts back down the mountain. His current residence is in Iwatobi proper a few blocks from his old swimming school: a studio apartment with a combination bathroom over one of the stores. It’s odd, in a way, to be back home but living in a space that mirrors his Tokyo apartment, but Makoto can’t complain. It’s off one of the side streets, so it’s fairly quiet, and the rent’s well within his range. He’d had an opportunity for one of the little fisherman’s cottages a bit further down the steps from where he’d grown up, but the thought of it had been too weird. His childhood memories are pleasant ones, but he had known those people well; had talked to some of them every day. The thought of living in their space had been more odd to him than that of a stranger being there. He’d felt like he’d constantly be living with those ghosts of the past, as pleasant as the people had been.
Makoto passes through the last of the torii between the temple grounds and the residential area and, as he approaches a particular alleyway to the right of the chozuya, his feet slow again. He stops at the corner, and another soft smile curves his lips, though this one is slighter than the other had been. There is only one home there, and it sits dark and quiet. The Nanase house appears unchanged from when he’d left, though Makoto knows that it’s really just an illusion. The house has changed hands twice since Grandma Nanase died, the last owners having come and gone in between his leaving and his family’s. But it will always be the Nanase house to him, and his heart warms even as it aches as memories of cuddles and stories, playing games on the porch, walks on the beach and planting flowers waft up and through his mind. Grandma Nanase had been family too, even though there hadn’t been blood between them.
Something soft twines around his ankle and, grinning softly, Makoto looks down. The cat looks up at him, meows, and Makoto’s taken—as he always is. He doesn’t know this one, but he squats to pet her all the same; she’s likely a relative of one he had, and it’s a pleasing thought to him. She purrs, nudges his hand and, laughing softly, Makoto rubs her ears. She’s not as skittish as the one he sees in his alley sometimes, but he knows he’ll befriend that one as well. He always does, with enough food and a little time.
The cat runs as Makoto starts to his feet, not because the voice is loud or threatening—quite the contrary—but because it’s right there. Eyes wide, he turns his head to his right, and his breath catches faintly. A brow arches slightly over a cool blue eye and Makoto feels the color rise to his cheeks; the man doesn’t need to speak to articulate his well? and, stammering an apology, Makoto takes a step to the side to allow the stranger room to pass.
Without another word, the man walks by him; it’s only then that Makoto realizes that both hands are full of grocery bags. It’s an odd time for marketing, as late as it is, Makoto idly thinks as he continues to watch the guy walk away, and then his eyes widen slightly again when his brain catches up and he consciously realizes that the other is heading in to the Nanase house.
Abruptly, the stranger stops, shoulders tense, and—heat again rushing to Makoto’s cheeks—he hurriedly turns away and continues down the steps before he can get caught in that cold gaze again. Once he reaches the road at the base of the mountain, Makoto pauses, and glances back up. He can see the subtle glow from the shrine, and he tries to regrasp his peaceful contentment from before, but his gaze wants to fade downward and to the left. After a second or two, he turns away again, lips pressed, and then he snorts a moment later, it soft and self-depreciating. It isn’t fair to be irked at the stranger for his current mindset. The guy had just been trying to get his groceries home, and Makoto had been in the way—and he had been staring. But only out of curiosity, he mentally blurts to himself as he feels his face warm yet again. It is an odd time to be out for groceries, in Iwatobi, at least, and the Nanase house is special to him, so it’s only natural. His interest has nothing to do with the strange man himself at all.
Chapter 2: The Swimmer
The morning is fair and bright, with just the right amount of wind. Makoto can’t contain his grin as he walks toward the water from the parking lot with his board and sail. It had felt odd to drive to the beach in Iwatobi; when he’d left for University, he hadn’t even been thinking about his license, never mind that, unlike Tokyo, there is excellent beach within walking distance in any direction. But he’d wanted this particular stretch, and his gear is just too cumbersome to carry from his apartment to the spot at the foot of the Misagozaki mountain
Right now, the beach is fairly deserted, and Makoto’s smile widens. It isn’t that he minds sharing. He’s always glad to see people, especially families and kids, out and enjoying the sand, sun and water like he does. He chuckles softly. Not that he hadn’t spent his own fair share of time playing console games or on the computer, he reminds himself. But he supposes that growing up did that to a guy, because the years of university and post graduate studies have made him appreciate the time spent away from some sort of monitor even more. Regardless, a sparsely populated beach means more water space and less worry, so he isn’t going to complain.
Movement catches Makoto’s eye from his right as he works on assembling his kit. He glances casually in that direction, and then he does a double take and straightens to watch the swimmer as he comes in toward the shore, cutting through the water with an impeccable crawl that almost commands one’s attention. Nearly impeccable, Makoto corrects a few seconds later when the swimmer draws close enough to where he’s able to discern a bit more detail. Makoto’s strokes are back and breast, but he’s swam in clubs nearly his entire life; he can tell that there’s something slightly off with the stroke between the left arm’s exit and recovery—not that it’s hampering the guy much, Makoto thinks in admiration as he watches him finish the distance to the shallows.
The swimmer stands then, gives a shake of his head and, as he turns a bit more toward the shore, Makoto’s eyes widen. It’s the same guy he’d seen going into the Nanase house a couple nights before. He quickly averts his gaze lest he be caught staring again, but not before he sees the man put a hand to his left shoulder and press on it as he makes a slow, deliberate rotation of the joint. Makoto’s brow furrows slightly as he goes back to work on his rig. It’s a little sad, he thinks. The guy’s young, probably close to his age, obviously gifted, attractive; he can’t help but wonder what had happened, though he knows it could have been any number of things. He has no doubt the stranger could have gone places in the world with a stroke like that. Not that his attractiveness has anything to do with that, he silently chides himself with a huff and a slight warmth to his cheeks, and he really has no excuse for including the observation. Beyond the fact that he is. Honestly, Makoto.
Noting the wind a final time, Makoto heads out into the water. Once on his board, he grabs the uphaul and rights the sail and, for the first several minutes, his mind is completely occupied between his balance and catching the wind. A grin lights up his face when he manages the latter, and he laughs aloud as the exhilaration rushes him and his board lifts a little to skip across the water. He knows that others prefer the more aggressive waves but, to Makoto, the sea is perfect right now, and his heart fills to bring a slight salt-sting to his eyes beneath his goggles. Now he feels truly home.
After some time, the beach, and water, begin to fill up, and the next time Makoto drops, he grabs his board and tugs it in to the shore. The sound of voices and laughter brings his thoughts back from where the wind and water had cleared them, and he glances along the beach to see if he can spot the guy from before. He really isn’t surprised when he doesn’t find him; he’d come early, too, after all, and it’s hard to do any serious swimming once the families and kids make their way down. At least, right there. An idea comes to Makoto’s mind then; he mulls it over on his way back to the car, and then pushes it firmly away. After stowing his kit, it flows forward again while he’s stripping off to the jammers he wears under his wetsuit and, worrying his lip as he pulls on a tee, Makoto then sighs, shoves his hair back with a hand, and dials Kisumi.
“Makoto!” Makoto smiles at the cheery greeting. It warms him, makes him realize how much he’s missed familiar human interaction over the past few days. “How’re things? Everything alright with the apartment?”
“Yes, fine!” Makoto hurries to assure. He’d not missed the bit of concern in Kisumi’s question. “It’s cozy, but it’s what I’m used to from Tokyo.”
“Good! Though, I’ve not given up on finding you an actual home.”
Makoto laughs. “Plenty of people spend their entire lives apartment living, you know!”
“I do. But not you. You’re too much of a—”
“Homebody,” they say together, Makoto’s tone a bit dryer than Kisumi’s, and Kisumi laughs. Makoto can’t help but join him. This isn’t the first time they’ve had this conversation. And Kisumi’s so convinced that he’ll find the perfect place that he’s got Makoto on a monthly lease on the studio through the realty.
“Ne, Kisumi,” Makoto begins after a moment of warm silence passes between them. “My first night back, I came out to the shrine and to walk the old neighborhood.”
“Yeah? It hasn’t changed much, has it.”
“The structures not so much, no,” Makoto agrees with a smile. “Though, at the time I went, it was hard to tell if the people had. You know how early the fishermen turn in for the night.”
Makoto gives it a second or two, but when he realizes he isn’t going to get anything more from his vague hint, he briefly presses his lips and asks, “Did someone move into the Nanase house?”
“The Nanase house?”
“Ah, sorry,” Makoto apologizes, and he gives Kisumi the address.
“Mm, yes! That was one of ours! Hang on.”
Makoto hears the tells of Kisumi leaving the living quarters above his office. Eventually, he catches the muffled sound of a drawer being opened, and then that of paper shuffling. He softly laughs. “Bet you’ll be glad once your shift from paper records to electronic is done, ne?”
“You have no idea,” Kisumi lightly groans. “I still don’t know why Uncle Katsumi dragged his feet on it so long. He’s always been before the times with everything—ahh. Here we go. Ah, yes, I remember this one now; it was all done through a broker versus the buyer direct! Mind, I can’t share the name, but yeah, it’s been sold; closing date was just over a week ago. Oh, that’s interesting,” Kisumi murmurs, and Makoto’s brow arches.
“Ah, just his occupation. Apparently, the new owner’s an illustrator. I’ve not seen many of those, even in Tokyo. You sound surprised,” Kisumi says when the sound escapes before Makoto can catch it.
“Mm, maybe a bit,” he admits. “I just—well, if it’s the same guy I saw going in the other night, he didn’t look the type.”
“What do you mean, type?”
“Well you know… Elderly? Female?” Makoto offers up, feeling more than a little lame now. Kisumi hoots and Makoto’s cheeks grow warmer.
“I can you were more of an athlete than a reader,” Kisumi teases, and then his entire tone changes. “So,” he drawls, “A young hottie then, ne?” He laughs again into the silence. “Makoto, I can hear you blushing over the phone.”
“So come on, then,” Kisumi cuts him off. “What does he look like? C’mon, Makoto,” he wheedles when Makoto, in peevish retaliation for the teasing, doesn’t respond. “You owe me that much. I did just do you a favor, after all.”
Makoto sputters for a second or two, and then he sighs. “You know, sometimes I wonder how we’re still friends,” he mutters dourly, but it’s not anything Kisumi’s not heard before, so Makoto isn’t surprised when he doesn’t get a reaction. “Fine. Thick black hair, but shaved close at the sides, blue eyes, cool voice. Slender, but athletic, nice dresser. There.”
“So petulant! But yes, he sounds very nice. Wait a second,” Kisumi says after a moment. “If you’ve already met him, what’d you need to ask me for?”
“I didn’t meet him. Not in the technical sense. I only saw him for a few seconds. Well, twice. That night, and then this morning on the beach. What now?” he demands when Kisumi breaks into laughter again.
“Nothing, nothing. He just must have made quite the impression on you if you picked all that up so fast. Bet you’re wishing you would have taken me up on that cottage now, ne?”
“Sorry, Makoto, sorry,” Kisumi apologizes hastily, recognizing the distress in Makoto’s voice. “I’m just happy for you, is all.”
“Wh—happy? Kisumi, I don’t even know him!”
“I know, I know. But you’ve not even talked about another guy catching your eye since Koji, and you’re too good of a man to go to waste.”
Makoto’s entire expression changes when he hears Koji’s name, but only his expression, not his entire being like it once had been, and the ache he feels is the gentle one of missing having someone, not the sharp, empty pain that he’d been left with. “That was a long time ago, Kisumi,” he says quietly, and with the slightest smile.
“Precisely my point. So, go get him!”
Makoto swears he can hear Kisumi’s leer in his tone and he can’t help but laugh at his friend’s antics. “I don’t even know if I want him yet. You can’t go on looks alone. I can’t,” he adds hastily before Kisumi can refute what he’d said, and then he adds pertly, “I’m not you.”
“Ooh ouch,” Kisumi drawls in a tone that tells Makoto just exactly how unbothered he is by the implication, and then, with true curiosity, he asks, “So why did you want to know then?”
Makoto shrugs, leans against his car. “I was close to Nanase-san when she was alive, so I was curious. Besides, the second time I saw him, I noticed that he left after the beach started to fill up, so I thought I’d let him know about some of the less popular sites around town. You know, to be neighborly. It’s hard to do any serious anything when you’re worried about running into someone in the water.”
“Ah, so serious swimmer then, ne?”
“Mmm. And he was good.” Though Makoto’s brow furrows softly as he recalls the slightly-off stroke and hints of injury.
“It’s no wonder he caught your eye then. I know you chose basketball over swimming in school, but you’re still so passionate about it. Though, Makoto?”
“You’re not his neighbor.” Kisumi lilts knowingly, and then he snickers as if he can see Makoto’s face heat up again.
“I’m hanging up now, Kisumi,” he says evenly and, as his friend breaks out into laughter, he disconnects the call.
Chapter 3: Serendipity
Makoto doesn’t end up going to tell the stranger about the beaches. Kisumi’s teasing has him feeling flustered, and the mention of Koji has his head, and heart, in a strange place of reminiscence and longing. He decides to go home, but the small apartment seems too constrictive in his agitation, so he opts to take his bike out instead—and is reminded how grateful he really is to Kisumi as he rolls it free of the enclosed storage area beneath the back stairs after setting his windsurfing gear beside it. He could have ended up with both the bike and kit in the apartment or paying extra for storage like he’d had to in Tokyo once his parents had moved.
There are routes in Iwatobi that are good for a lazy ride, ones that meander through town and along the beaches. Makoto avoids those. He wants something that will make him think and stay focused, so he rides away from the town to the Minogaseyama mountain and wends his way up it. It’s hard work but, like the windsurfing, he’s missed it, missed the exhilaration to be found in the bit of danger in the rugged steepness. It’s a totally different feel than the borderline fear that had honed his senses almost too sharply the handful of times he’d tried to bike in Tokyo, with its congestion of traffic and people.
The view once Makoto reaches the lookout is as breathtaking as he remembers. Naturally, Iwatobi has changed in the time that he’s been away. People, and businesses, have come and gone. Roads have been widened and traffic signals added; additions have been made to the schools and an apartment high-rise stands kitty-corner from the hospital now. Makoto is glad that his hometown is thriving, that people fall in love with the sleepy, seaside village, or stay in love with it as he had. But he’s just as glad that, from this vantage point, Iwatobi hasn’t changed. There’s no sprawl to be noted, no pollution hanging in the air. He breathes deeply, taking all of it in, letting the sights and scents wash through him and, by the time he’s back home, the tangle his conversation with Kisumi had left him in is completely forgotten.
After a shower and then dinner at one of the local diners, whose proprietor still calls him ‘Mako-chan’, Makoto spends the rest of the evening lazing away with a movie until he falls asleep. Sunday affords him a bit less playtime than Saturday had, but by the time Monday morning comes around, he feels well-prepared to start his new position. For the most part. He’s confident in his knowledge and he knows he’s good at what he does, and well beyond the mechanics of the job. He’d managed to build a rapport with even the patients reported as most cantankerous by other physiotherapists, which meant he could help them, and that was what he’d chosen this line of profession for. As an amateur athlete, he’s suffered some minor injuries that have temporarily robbed him of the freedom to do something he loved. It fulfills something inside him to be able to aid in returning that freedom to others, whether it means helping them be able to live independently again, or to participate in their next decathlon.
He just has to walk up the stairs and into his new setting, first.
Makoto, like Iwatobi, has grown and changed during the time that he’s been away. But, like his hometown, he hasn’t changed so much that he isn’t largely still who he’d been when he’d left. Some things would always make him anxious. Like thunderstorms, and haunted houses and boats. And walking into a room full of strangers. Nonetheless, up he goes, smiling a bit as he hears his mother’s voice in his head from his first day at Kindergarten over two decades ago: Once you go inside, they won’t be strangers anymore, Mako-chan!
Makoto’s mother is still one of the wisest people Makoto knows.
The lobby is unchanged from when he’d been in for his interviews: comfortable benches and chairs are scattered through the area with enough space to allow crutches and walkers and wheelchairs through unimpeded, and the walls are a warm, neutral tone with large pictures of some of Iwatobi’s finest scenery decorating them. The receptionist recognizes him and beckons him through, pressing the door release; Makoto can’t help but feel a bit of excitement as the thought passes through that it’ll be the last time that he’ll have to be let in. He’ll have a badge that will grant him passage when he leaves.
As he makes his way through to the director’s office, he glances to the large therapy gym to his right and then the natatorium to his left, both boasting walls of open windows that provide picturesque views and make the spaces feel even more open and inviting. Makoto sighs softly in appreciation. It makes him proud, knowing that he’ll be working for a foundation that understands the importance in treating the body as a whole. Therapy is difficult, and can be painful, but the views afforded their patients can’t help but heal the soul, and he knows the same can be found in the muted colors, wide windows and art showcased in the treatment rooms and offices that he passes. A set of which will be his in just a few minutes, and that excitement flutters through him again at the thought.
Makoto stops and turns when the director hails him from behind. “Konoe-sensei!” He bows and then straightens. “It’s good to see you again, Sir.”
“Same, Tachibana, same. And I know the team is glad to be back up to full staff. They’re already making lists of which patients they’re going to give away,” Konoe says wryly, and Makoto chuckles and rubs the back of his neck.
“That’s fine. I’ve been through that before. I’ll be sure and do my best, Konoe-sensei.”
“I’m sure you will.” Konoe gestures ahead of himself. “Are you ready?”
Makoto’s earlier smile returns, and he nods, not a sign of that earlier anxiety lingering. “I am.”
“Excellent. Let’s get the last of the paperwork and corporate bureaucracy wrapped up then, shall we?”
Makoto laughs at Konoe’s wry tone as he follows him down the hall to his office and, like that, his first week is gone, lost to a flurry of meeting the staff, setting up his rooms and learning the center’s policies and procedures. The Electronic Medical Records system is the same as he’d used in Tokyo, so that cuts his training down to a third and, by the time he walks out on Friday, he already has his first patient load. His weekend is spent pouring over their charts on his laptop and familiarizing himself with their basics. He feels compassion for them all, from eighty-six-year-old Ikebe-san, who is learning to walk again after a major stroke, to twelve-year-old Taji-kun who dislocated his shoulder playing volleyball with his cousins and who’s had to miss his first junior high swim competition because of it.
When Monday comes around again, Makoto faces it more brightly than the first. He’s never had that initial anxiety when it comes to meeting his patients. He’s eager for it, ready to put his knowledge and skill to use, proud to be able to offer his hometown the same level of care and expertise they would receive in Tokyo, only better, because he can give them that personal, hometown touch. He knows the places they do and, sometimes, the people. He can sympathize with the difficult sea and terrain, how the weather can so abruptly turn and what it can take from them. How the breeze from their ocean can seem to temporarily soothe all their troubles away.
By the middle of the week, the director has observed Makoto enough to be comfortable in adding a new patient slot to his schedule every day and when, at the end of that conversation, Konoe informs him that he anticipates that Makoto will be carrying a full patient load by month’s end, Makoto is ecstatic.
“Oh! And Tachibana, one more thing.”
Makoto, still grinning, turns in the doorway and looks at Konoe in question.
“Nishimura was by earlier…” Konoe tells him that Nishimura’s wife, a week past her due date, is scheduled for a Cesarean section in the morning and that Nishimura will be on Paternity Leave for the next month, at least. “We’ve been lightening his patient load for the past several weeks in anticipation, so we’re fairly set. But there’s one that nobody really wants to take on…”
A wry smile curves Makoto’s lips. “So, as the new kid on the block, it’s coming to me,” he finishes, and then he laughs a bit when Konoe taps his nose. “What kind of case is it, Sir?” he asks, truly more curious than anything else.
“Home therapy. Nishimura will fill you in on the rest.”
Makoto nods, taking the dismissal for what it is, and he continues out, his mind idly turning what little information he has over. It’s a bit of a surprise, and he finds himself recalling his first home therapy case as an intern and how his senpai had taunted him that it would likely be either a crochety, bedridden retiree or some lonely soul looking for a pretty boy—all part of their hazing, he’d realized after, though that case had been fairly close to the first situation. Regardless, as the agency he’d worked for in Tokyo didn’t offer homecare, he’d not provided it since his internship and, as it was never mentioned in either the job description or his interview, he’d not really even thought about it since then. Not that it matters either way, he supposes. It’s still someone in need and it isn’t as if he could turn down the director’s request anyway, especially not a week and a half into the job.
Nishimura’s office door is open, but Makoto knocks anyway. His eyes go soft when he sees the absolute frantic expression in Nishimura’s eyes. He can’t be much older than Makoto but, in this state, he looks years younger, and Makoto feels bad when his knock startles the stack of papers from Nishimura’s hand. “Ahh, sorry, Nishimura-san,” he apologizes, and he steps into the room to help pick them up. He smiles as he stands to hand them off. “I just came from Konoe-sensei. He told me about your wife. I wish the best for all three of you tomorrow.”
“Thanks, Tachibana-san.” Nishimura gives a short, curt laugh as he rubs a hand through his hair. “It’s stupid. It’s like, one of the most common surgeries performed and her provider is one of the best in the area. I don’t know why I’m so freaked out.”
“Because it’s your wife and your baby,” Makoto says gently, trying to alleviate at least that for the man. “I think it’s natural, Nishimura-san.”
“…Yeah. Thanks,” Nishimura’s expression is sheepish, but it’s lost a lot of that panic from before, and Makoto smiles as he nods.
“Mm. Konoe-sensei said I’d be taking your homecare?” he brings up when a few silent seconds pass.
“Ah, yes, yes! Sorry! Namiko, Namiko,” Nishimura mutters, turning to sort through the stack on his desk; Makoto’s brow arches in question when he’s handed a slim file of notes. “Sorry,” Nishimura apologizes again, hand nervously scrubbing through his hair once more. “I’ve fallen a bit behind, I’ve had so much on my mind.”
“It’s alright.” Makoto smiles. “I’ll take a look at these and then give them to Nakamura-san up front so she can enter them for you. Anything I need to know beyond what’s in the system?” he gently prods when Nishimura goes into his frantic sorting again.
“Hm? Ah, not really,” Nishimura replies with a shake of his head. “Namiko Kaito. Twenty-seven-year-old male, status post arthroscopic intervention for a retained bullet in the left glenohumeral joint. I see him twice a week, every Monday and Thursday. Wound’s fully healed with no complications; we’re just working on getting his range of motion back and doing massage for the residual pain. I know; why doesn’t he just come in, right?” Nishimura says with a short laugh when he sees Makoto’s puzzled expression, and then he shrugs. “My guess is that he’s agoraphobic, though it doesn’t show in any of his history. Then again, he sees one of the top Orthopods in Tokyo; maybe it’s something he writes for all his special patients.”
“What’s this guy do?” Makoto asks, brow furrowed slightly, head tilted.
“He’s an illustrator. With really bad luck, apparently. Poor guy; just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
But Makoto doesn’t really hear that; his mind is stuck on an image of thick black hair, shaved close at the sides, blue eyes, and a glimpse of a shoulder rotation.
Makoto starts with a blink, then sheepishly apologizes. “Thanks, Nishimura-san. I’ll get the rest from the EMR. And good luck again.” He turns to leave and then he pauses. “Ne, he wouldn’t happen to live in the Misagozaki Shrine area, would he?”
Nishimura’s slight gape gives the answer before he speaks and Makoto’s stomach lightly twists, not altogether unpleasantly. “Yeah, right on the mountain near the chozuya. How’d you know?”
Chapter 4: We Meet Again
Makoto’s whimsical thoughts about the Nanase house the night he’d visited the shrine actually hadn’t been too far off base, he realizes from his observation point a few steps down. Save for a slightly darker coat of paint and a new roof, the structure hasn’t changed, and Makoto is tempted to circle around to the back and see if the flower and garden beds are still there, if Nanase-san’s small fountain still is. A wistful smile briefly curves his lips as memories come back of him happily splashing in it, of how she would laugh when he did. He wonders if the interior had changed. Was the shrine still there? The soft, welcoming colors? The tatami? Or had one of the owners desired a more Western flare and would he find every remnant of her gone?
After a moment or two of the melancholic reminiscence, Makoto lets it go with a gentle sigh. He’ll find what he will once he goes inside. Besides, he isn’t there for the memories. He's there to provide care for Namiko Kaito, and that's the end of it.
Mentally reviewing what he’d learned from Namiko’s chart—and doing his best to purge his mind of any other thoughts regarding the man, as well as Kisumi’s extremely unhelpful conversation from two Saturdays back—Makoto takes the last few steps, sets down his bags and knocks on the door. Namiko opens it shortly and Makoto’s stomach clenches slightly when, after a brief flash of surprise, ice settles into those clear, blue eyes. “Get o—”
“No, wait! It’s not what you think!” Makoto blurts, cutting Namiko off as he wildly waves away any further words. “I’m not stalking you or anything, I’m here for your physio.” He offers a nervous smile as he points to the bags at his feet with one hand and holds the lanyard with his ID out with the other. “Not that I was stalking you the other night either! I just—think I’ll stop talking now,” he trails off with a nervous laugh when something he can’t quite interpret flashes through Namiko’s eyes.
“Mm. That’d probably be for the best.”
Makoto’s jaw drops slightly at the blunt agreement and nerves grip his stomach; it’s the first time this has ever happened with a patient and he’s slightly mortified. “R-right,” he finds himself stammering, which only makes it worse, and he feels obliged to apologize again though he really hasn’t done anything wrong. “I truly am sorry, Namiko-san. I—”
“Sensei, relax. It’s fine.” Namiko coolly cuts him off and then opens the door fully. “Just… come in and get set up.”
The warmth in Makoto’s cheeks heightens as he straightens from his slight bow. It hadn’t been difficult to imagine the eye roll that he has no doubt had accompanied Namiko’s flatly spoken platitude. Namiko has already stepped back into the genkan so Makoto takes a slow, deep breath to reset and center himself. It’s been a fair while since he’s been that flustered, but he pushes back the embarrassment that wants to rise again and squares his shoulders after bending to pick up his equipment. He’ll work through it later. Right now, he needs to focus on salvaging the situation so that Namiko’s next move isn’t a call to his director.
Stepping past the threshold, Makoto briefly sets his bags down to exchange his shoes for slippers. As he straightens, Namiko turns away from him again and, picking up his equipment, Makoto follows him deeper into the house. It isn’t until he sees the cream and blue shoji that separate the living room from the parlor that he really remembers where he is. They’re still the same, even after all the years that have passed, and he can’t help but silently sigh he’s that glad for it; glad that some of the kindly old woman from his youth remains in her house after all. It’s enough to allow him to let go of that lingering tension and, when he turns to Namiko this time, it’s with a genuine smile. “Just let me get the table set up, and we’ll get started.”
Once Makoto is ready, he puts Namiko through a full range of motion exam and notates where he’s the weakest. As Namiko works through the exercises to strengthen those particular points, Makoto thinks about what he’d seen at the beach and contemplates what Nishimura had done for Namiko up to that point. When Namiko finishes, Makoto instructs him to get onto the table. “I’m going to try some manipulation and stretching before I begin the massage,” he explains, and then he has Namiko lay face down. “A bit of discomfort during the manipulation is normal, but let me know if it gets too severe,” he quietly instructs before he begins, and he brings his hands to Namiko’s shoulder, one to the front, fingers pressing between the shoulder blade and clavicle, the other at the back, cupping the inferior angulus.
As Makoto manipulates the joint, he watches Namiko for non-verbal cues; a brow arches when he notices a metal hoop snugged close in Namiko’s left earlobe that he hadn’t before. It’s masculine, and it suits him, Makoto thinks as he finishes up. “Doing alright? Alright,” he says with a nod when he hears the quiet affirmation, and he brings the forward hand back, essentially boxing Namiko’s shoulder blade inside of his thumbs and forefingers. Namiko tenses with the first deep push, but it’s the accompanying hiss that escapes with it that causes Makoto to stop. Gently, Makoto warns Namiko that he’s going to use his fingertips to push deep around the joint and then he proceeds, softly apologizing this time when, once he pinpoints the spot, Namiko about comes off the table. The odd hesitation he’d observed in Namiko’s stroke makes sense to him now, and he shifts both sets of fingers up Namiko’s neck to massage from the base of his skull downward.
Makoto smiles a bit at the wary question in Namiko’s voice. “Just trying to alleviate some of the tension caused by the exploration. If I don’t, then your prescribed massage won’t have the desired effect.” Namiko seems to accept the explanation and Makoto’s smile widens when, after a few seconds, he feels the man start to relax. Once Makoto is satisfied, he returns his focus to Namiko’s left shoulder and begins the therapeutic massage and, after he’s finished, he helps Namiko flip and sit. “I’d like to get an updated film of your shoulder.”
Namiko’s lips press tightly together and Makoto’s expression softens. “I know you prefer to not come to the center, but I do feel it’s important, Namiko-san.” He talks to Namiko a bit about adhesive capsulitis. “Truly? I don’t believe you’re there; your range of motion is quite good, and that intense pain should have come with a shallower prod if you were. My bet is that you’re dealing with some lingering deep tissue inflammation from the extraction and bone shaving. But I don’t take risk with my patients,” Makoto shares with a smile, “And the film is the only way to rule out the adhesive capsulitis completely.” He notes a reluctant acceptance in Namiko’s eyes before the evenly spoken fine. “Good. I’ll get that scheduled for you then.” Makoto draws a mental breath. “I also think you would benefit from aqua-therapy.”
Irritation flashes through Namiko’s eyes, and his murmured, “Sensei,” carries as much ice in it as it does warning. “You just said—”
“I know. And I do understand,” Makoto cuts in apologetically. He can’t imagine living that way himself, but he knows that not everyone is like him. He taps his lip for a moment, and then his eyes brighten. “Do you trust me, Namiko-san? Alright, do you at least believe me when I say I think you’d benefit from it?” he amends when Namiko simply arches his brow to the first. Makoto swears he’s never known anyone that can say so much without speaking a word, but then Namiko nods, the thought passes, and Makoto grins. “I’m glad,” he says sincerely, and then, “I want to move your Thursday afternoon session to Friday morning. I’m thinking seven should do.”
“Before office hours?” Namiko asks as he stands so that Makoto can collapse the table.
The curiosity in Namiko’s tone causes Makoto to pause and look up; his lips curve when Namiko quickly looks away from him, as if embarrassed that he’d shown his surprise. “Consider it an exchange for agreeing to the radiograph.”
“…are you rewarding me for good behavior?”
Makoto laughs at the incredulous drawl and he straightens, table in hand. “Well, I don’t have any lollies available, so…” He gives an easy shrug, it followed by a flash of a grin when he hears Namiko mutter something about not being twelve. “So, seven Friday morning then?” he asks to confirm once he’s packed everything away, and Namiko agrees as they walk to the genkan. “Great.” Makoto trades the slippers for his shoes and then turns, hand on the door. “I’ll pick you up then. And Namiko-san?”
Namiko closes his mouth from where his jaw had slightly dropped, but he can’t quite blink away his curiosity and surprise. Something must show in Makoto’s eyes because color rises in Namiko’s cheeks and he looks away as he gives a bland, “Hm?”
Makoto bites back a laugh, knowing he shouldn’t be as enthralled by it all as he is, but not able to help it. “Be ready for the water.”
Chapter 5: Foundations
Makoto glances at the ocean and smiles as he gets out of his car. He’d been anxious; a squall had blown in the night before, but the residual waves have mostly died down and the air is light and fresh. He itches for his board, but only for a few seconds. He knows he’s technically on the clock, but he’s also looking forward to the next hour. He loves the water and helping his patients; he’d be hard-pressed to feel anything but eager under even normal circumstances. But it’s heightened today because he’s looking forward to sharing it with Namiko. Purely from a professional regard and one casual athlete to another, of course. It has nothing to do with how the glimpses of personality he’d gotten on Monday have him even more intrigued than before.
A slight smile forms as Makoto heads up the steps. He knows he’d been a bit forward and impertinent with Namiko at the end of their initial visit. Neither what he has in mind nor providing transport for a patient is exactly conventional, but Namiko’s case isn’t exactly routine. Besides, it is Iwatobi; neighbors help each other out all the time, dropping in to take care of pets, offering rides…
You’re not his neighbor.
Makoto rolls his eyes at the echo of Kisumi’s teasing voice; ignores the hint of warmth that creeps into his cheeks. If nothing else, the impetuousness of his decision had prevented Namiko from cutting him off or denying him. Besides, Makoto must have at least piqued his curiosity as there’d been no call to complain or cancel the session. He smiles a bit again. He’s glad for that. Namiko has a beautiful stroke and an excellent potential for full recovery with the right treatment. Not that Nishimura had been handling the case incorrectly. Namiko’s file makes no mention of swimming. In actuality, the leisure and recreation fields on Namiko’s demographics forms had been blank, and had Makoto not caught sight of him on the beach that day, he doesn’t know that he would have altered Nishimura’s care plan. But beyond that, he now has excuse to share one of those more secluded beaches with Namiko so that the man can swim more privately in his leisure time.
You’ve not even talked about another guy catching your eye since Koji…
Makoto’s brows draw together slightly as Kisumi’s voice echoes through his mind again and then he sighs and rolls his eyes at himself in a silent, fine. He’ll admit it. Kisumi’s right. He does find Namiko attractive, had since that first night on the steps to the shrine, and he hasn’t felt that since his one serious relationship had ended. But it doesn’t matter now. Namiko is his patient and even the thought is bordering inappropriate. Besides, he’s fairly certain that Namiko thinks he’s a bumbling idiot. Though he supposes that’s better than a stalker, he thinks wryly as he knocks.
Namiko answers promptly and Makoto greets him with a smile. He makes himself hold onto it when he receives a flat, Sensei, in return. Namiko doesn’t have to like him, or engage, he reminds himself. He just needs to be willing to listen and work through the regimens toward healing that shoulder. As they walk to his car, Makoto asks him the routine questions to check his progress and pain, and he’s pleased to hear that there hasn’t been any regression in either. “And Nakamura-san called you with your X-ray appointment, yes?” he queries as they reach the lot.
Namiko nods. “Not at the center, though.” He slides Makoto a look over the vehicle and Makoto smiles.
“No. I asked her to book it with the hospital because I knew they had a Saturday schedule.” The conversation drops for a few seconds while they get in and shut the doors. “Not many patients want to go to the hospital on Saturday mornings, so there should be less people, and less potential for fuss,” Makoto continues as they buckle up.
Makoto can’t see Namiko’s eyes, but there is something in his voice: a slight bit of softness around the edges of his usual monotone. His own expression gentles as he pulls out into the road. “Mm. I can’t imagine what it must be like, having to worry every time you go out, wondering if someone’s going to identify you—”
“What do you mean?”
Another shift in tenor, still monotone, but all edges this time as Namiko cuts him off. Makoto is suddenly reminded of the many skittish stray kittens he’s befriended through the years and his expression softens further as he slants a warm smile Namiko’s way. “Your career, Namiko-san. I did have to review your chart, you know,” he says in gentle tease. He sobers then, but he holds onto his smile. “I didn’t mean to offend. I just recall how the twins—my younger brother and sister—were when they were young readers. They poured over every picture from front to back, including the ones on the covers. Not that you would have been illustrating back then. I didn’t mean that. I—”
A soft huff cuts Makoto off and he swears that it had been one of amusement despite the laconic expression reflected at him in the rearview. “It’s alright, Sensei. I know what you meant. Though, it isn’t so much that. More would recognize my name than they would my face. I just don’t care to deal with the public in general. And no, there’s no particular reason,” he adds after a second passes between them.
Makoto’s lips part slightly in surprise that his thoughts had been read, and Namiko…
Makoto’s jaw drops further for a second and then he’s grinning and shaking his head. “Something tells me the public in general might be the party better off,” he says, attempting for wry, but ruining it with a laugh. He thinks that Namiko’s smirk curves higher, but the man turns to look out the window before he can confirm. A comfortable silence settles for a moment or two, and then:
“We’re not going into town.”
Makoto smiles again at the surprise in Namiko’s tone. “Nope,” is all he says, however, and he ignores the curious look Namiko gives him, though his smile widens further—and then again when he hears another huff, this one definitely of irritation. “Patience, Namiko-san,” he placates with a chuckle, “We’re nearly there.”
True to his word, Makoto pulls off of the road not even a minute later. It’s not really even a parking spot: more of a very deep shoulder tucked up against the mountain. He glances at Namiko and isn’t sure if he should be offended or amused by the wariness that has settled into his eyes. To his credit, Namiko does get out of the car, but Makoto can see that he’s wound tight, and he mentally sighs before smiling at his patient again. “Across the road, just through that line of scrub, is a path that leads down to the water. You can go first, or I can, if you’d rather not have me behind you,” he offers patiently, but he doesn’t understand, and there is a small part of him that’s hurt. He knows it’s only their second session and that he’d asked a lot of Namiko, but it’s just him, and Namiko had trusted him at least enough to agree to today and to get into the car with him. Then again, Makoto is also aware that one’s medical record is strictly that; it doesn’t provide every detail of a patient’s past. Despite what Namiko had said before, maybe there is a darker—
“Tch. Whatever you’re thinking, Sensei, you’re over thinking it.” Makoto blinks at the wry monotone, comes back to the moment, and Namiko lightly rolls his eyes. He doesn’t move, however, just looks away again; Makoto’s brow starts to arch and then Namiko’s fingers briefly fidget against the material of his shorts. “I just—why?”
Makoto isn’t stupid. He knows that the hesitance he’d seen a few moments before hadn’t had anything to do with curiosity. But he’s willing to let it go, and he’s definitely counting it as a win that Namiko had initiated a different line of conversation versus shutting him out for the remainder of their time together. “A couple of reasons, to be honest.” He pauses to grab their bags from the back seat and then he nudges the door shut with his hip. “I truly do believe that the aqua therapy will benefit you, regardless as to what your film shows Saturday,” he continues as they head to the trail he’d mentioned. “But also, because—while I respect your desire for privacy and anonymity—there isn’t a place on earth like Iwatobi, and I want you to see and experience more of it than what you can from your house.”
“Oi, I’ve been outside,” Namiko protests in a grumble similar to the one Makoto’d heard a few days back, and he’s just as amused, as captivated, by it. They reach the trailhead, Namiko takes the lead, and the smile that Makoto had licked away blossoms to light his eyes now that it’s safe to let it. The show of trust, deliberate or not, warms him, makes him happy, and the tease slips past his lips before he knows it.
“The grocery store doesn’t exactly count as enjoying Iwatobi, Namiko-san.”
Makoto hears one of those quiet huffs again; he can’t quite interpret it since he can’t see Namiko’s eyes, but he gets a muttered, “Annoying,” after that makes him want to chuckle for some reason. “I’ve been up to the shrine, and to the—ohh!”
The sound Namiko gives is somewhere between a gasp and a quiet exclamation and, despite the fact that Makoto has seen this view more times than he can count, he can’t blame him. It truly is gorgeous, one of the best that Iwatobi offers: a cove of turquoise water and pristine sand, down far enough from plain sight that you have to know it’s there to even look for it.
“There are little places like this scattered in either direction along the coast,” Makoto murmurs quietly as Namiko looks his fill. “The beaches aren’t as accessible or open, so most who do stumble across them usually don’t come back, but the water’s just as good. This is the closest
one to you, but I can tell you where the others are, if you’d like.” Namiko doesn’t say anything, he just nods as he continues to stare. Makoto’s expression softens; pleasure warms through him that he’s managed this much of an impact on Namiko even if it’s not directed at him. After another moment or two, however, the more pragmatic part of his mind catches up again, reminding him of such things as propriety and the full schedule he has that day, and he clears the thoughts and briefly puts a hand to Namiko’s right shoulder. “Shall we?”
“Ahh, mmm. Sorry,” Namiko murmurs as they continue forward. “I just—” He lightly shakes his head. “There aren’t words.”
“No need to be sorry, Namiko-san. It is breathtaking.” Makoto grins. “And it’s always pleasing to come across someone who enjoys the water like I do,” he admits as he falls in line with Namiko now that they’ve cleared the trail. He stops at a fairly flat outcropping of rock and, after handing Namiko his bag, Makoto crouches to open his own and get his towel.
“How did you find out about this place and the others?”
Makoto glances to his right as he straightens, and he smiles. “I grew up in Iwatobi. In a house very close to yours, as a matter of fact,” he shares as he shoves a hand back through his hair after taking his shirt off.
“Explains the stalking, then.”
“I wasn’t!” Makoto blurts in response to the murmur. Namiko’s lips quirk up and he pouts a bit. “Mean, Namiko-san,” he mutters in playful complaint but then he smiles again. “But yes. I was curious. I knew ‘most everyone there. Including the people who lived in yours,” he confirms when Namiko tips his head as if to ask the question. “Not the family that had it last; they came after I left for uni and had moved on before I came back. But I was acquainted with the one before, and I knew the original owner very well.” He steps out of his track pants and then turns to put them on top of the bag with his shirt. “Right,” he begins as he straightens to turn toward the water, and after blinking in surprise, he softly laughs as that pleasure warms through him again. Namiko has already headed into the surf.
Chapter 6: Balancing Act
“Right. Keys… keys…” Makoto looks around hurriedly, walks to his desk, picks up a couple of papers. “Aha!” He drops his fob into his bag and then looks around one more time as he checks off his mental list; after another second or two, he heads out the door, only to laugh at himself, partly in exasperation, when he has to rifle through his bag to get his keys back out to lock his deadbolt. He’s always suffered from a bit of scatter-mindedness, but it’s not been this bad in a while.
Makoto contemplates his state as he heads down to the car. It’s been just over four weeks since he’s taken Namiko as his patient and he’s on his way to their ninth session. However, today’s is already different. On Monday, Namiko had asked him if he ever worked Saturday hours. Makoto hadn’t thought much of it in that moment; Namiko has slowly been opening up more, so he’d been more pleased by the question than anything. He’d answered in the negative and Namiko had nodded; Makoto had noticed a shift in his eyes, one that broadcasted that Namiko felt awkward and, after a second or two, Makoto had asked him if he was alright.
Namiko had persisted that he’d just been curious, but the slight color that had crept into his cheeks had told Makoto that it was something more. “You just always push yourself to the last minute on Friday,” Namiko had finally said with a soft huff when Makoto had let the silence prolong. “I just thought that if you came on Saturday instead it wouldn’t stress you so much, and you might be able to stay long enough to actually enjoy the water instead of having to rush off once our session was done.”
Makoto colors a bit himself when he recalls how, after a brief moment of shock over the thinly veiled invitation, he’d practically rushed to tell Namiko that he wouldn’t mind, that he’d do it. The glimpse of surprised pleasure he’d caught in Namiko’s eyes had added to his own, and it hadn’t been until he’d finished his day and had been unwinding at home that a mild panic had set in. Had he done the right thing, he’d wondered, or had he crossed a line? He was, of course, allowed to have friends. And it did, on occasion, happen between provider and patient, which was also allowed, though it had been strongly emphasized—and more than once—that boundaries should be set and adhered to. Beyond that, Makoto sees how Namiko is changing, how he’s coming out of his shell bit by bit. He still doesn’t go out, or talk about himself much at all, but he’s more interested in what’s around him, in Makoto, in life in general, Makoto thinks. He gets hints of smiles now, glimpses of humor, and the passion that comes alive when Namiko is in the water, it takes Makoto’s breath away. He isn’t going to pull away from Namiko now simply because he worries that he won’t be able to keep his crush under control. He’d just have to.
It shouldn’t be difficult. He’s managed it this long, after all.
Namiko is waiting at the base of the steps when Makoto pulls into the small lot. Makoto’s brows arch slightly when he sees that Namiko has brought a cooler down with his bag, and his curiosity grows when he notices how Namiko avoids his gaze when he settles in. “The whole reason we're doing this today is so that you don't have to rush,” Namiko says with a shrug as he’s conveniently occupied with fastening his seatbelt. “It wouldn’t make much sense to cut things short because we need to eat. Besides you’re giving up your Saturday to do this, so breakfast was the least I could do.”
“I’m not giving up anything, Namiko-san,” Makoto replies as pleasure warms through him, it as much from how Namiko has come to understand his silences and expressions in turn as from the thoughtfulness of the gesture itself.
“… You told me that you don’t work Saturday hours,” Namiko refutes, finally looking up at him as they pull onto the road.
Makoto smiles a bit. “Mm. I don’t.” Silence falls between them for a moment or two and then,
“Lucky me for being such a special case.”
To anyone else, the words likely would have sounded rude in Namiko’s monotone, but the nuances Makoto has learned to pick up on bring a slight color to his cheeks. All he can give is a noncommittal “Mm,” and he doesn’t dare look into the rearview. When he feels he can a moment or two later, he instantly looks back to the road. Namiko had been waiting, the expression in his eyes telling Makoto quite clearly that he was caught.
I can do this, Makoto thinks again desperately, it followed by the thought that he really needs to find out when Nishimura is returning from paternity leave.
Their arrival at the cove clears that bit of charged air between them. As usual, Namiko heads right for the water and, as usual, Makoto can’t help but drink his fill of the sight of him in what he believes to be Namiko’s natural environment. He’s seen Namiko’s work a few different times now; Namiko has shown him a couple of his completed projects, and he’s caught sight of a sketch or two on Namiko’s desk. Namiko has a gift for drawing, too, Makoto won’t refute that. But even the stories he draws for are water-based: beautiful illustrations of the sea and His creatures done in a perfect mixture of realism and fantasy that would draw any young reader in.
Iwatobi really is the perfect place for Namiko, and Makoto is glad for that.
Once he joins Namiko in the water, they work through the scheduled regimen. Once they're done, they break for Namiko’s breakfast. The mackerel and miso are some of the best Makoto’s had and he doesn’t hesitate to tell Namiko that. He then convinces himself that he doesn’t stare when Namiko just colors slightly and turns his head with a shrug in response. After, they play around in the cove, sometimes swimming and talking together, sometimes not. Even the silence between them is comfortable. Nobody comes, they have the place to themselves, and the morning slips away until it’s time for lunch. Namiko insists they go back to his place for it despite Makoto’s protests, and the meal quickly passes with more light conversation and pleasant silences set to the muted backdrop of the television that Namiko had turned on to break that initial awkwardness between them when they’d first come in.
They never go back to Friday mornings.
On their third Saturday, Makoto brings breakfast out with him: purchased pastries from his favorite shop downtown. Namiko thanks him for the gesture and then teases him for being so helpless in the kitchen. Makoto pouts and, after, his cheeks will still warm when he thinks about how Namiko had told him he still needs so much care for being professional and grown—how, when Namiko had pointedly looked away after, a hint of color in his cheeks, Makoto had wondered if, maybe, Namiko might not mind to do it. He passes it off as wishful thinking though and, instead, works a compromise that Namiko would continue cooking the meals and Makoto would bring out what Namiko needs to fix them.
Two Saturdays have passed since then and, this morning, the sky is overcast. Makoto hears the weatherman say that the forecast is for storms all day, but he isn’t exactly listening. His mind is already on the other side of town and at the foot of Misagozaki mountain.
For the first time since they’d started their Saturdays, Namiko isn’t waiting when he gets there. Worry creases Makoto’s brow. He doesn’t even think until he steps out and into the rain that, of course, Namiko wouldn’t be waiting for him in this weather. Shaking his head at himself, he heads up the steps and to the door and knocks, and the warmth that he feels when he catches a glimpse of the smile that Namiko tries to hide but doesn’t quite manage to soothes the chill from the rain away.
Makoto grins at him as he steps into the genkan. “Of course. We still had a session scheduled, ne?” he reminds as he takes off his shoes.
Makoto’s brow furrows; there’s something off with Namiko’s tone, more of a dullness to it than usual, and he glances up. “Namiko-san?” He gets silence for an answer, accompanied by a slight tightening across Namiko’s shoulders. Something not entirely unpleasant flickers through Makoto’s stomach: a mixture of anxiety and anticipation. He’s convinced that he’s not wrong about what he’s sensing from the other man, but he questions if he should address it. “That’s the only answer I can give right now, Namiko-san,” he decides upon, tone soft and even despite the ball of nerves that has dropped into his gut. Namiko tenses further and Makoto really wishes he could see his face, his eyes, but he can’t, so he lets instinct guide him. “But under other circumstances, I might have told you about how I got worried when I didn’t see you at the steps, and about how, even before I left home, my focus was so much on our time together that I didn’t even think about the session, never mind grabbing my table or even my kit once I heard the forecast and learned that the beach would be out today.”
Namiko holds his tension for another few seconds and then it eases with a huffed laugh. “I swear you need so much looking after.”
It doesn’t matter to Makoto that Namiko still won’t look at him. Namiko’s given him enough that the jumble eases into that pleasured warmth that soothes through him. “Mm. Apparently so,” he agrees with a laugh and a sheepish rub to the nape of his neck.
“Hn. Well, in other circumstances—”
Namiko abruptly cuts himself off and he tenses again, but it’s of a different sort. Makoto’s gut knots in response but, this time, it’s out of pure pleasure.
This time, he’s glad that Namiko is still facing away.
“C’mon,” he said softly after another few moments pass and he’s mostly in control again. “Let’s get the work out of the way.”
Namiko nods and Makoto follows him into the living room. The first part of their session goes per the norm; Makoto checks on his range of motion and pain, watches Namiko as he goes through the stretches and strength training exercises. The difference between their first session and now is night and day to his trained eye and he can tell that Namiko is just as pleased when he informs him. When it’s time for massage, Makoto apologizes for forgetting his table but offers to proceed; a futon isn’t ideal, he explains, but it’d be fine this once. Namiko agrees and goes to fetch one. It’s a bit more uncomfortable on Makoto’s behalf, but it’s his fault, so he makes it work, and he can’t stop the grin that rises when the same deep tissue manipulation that had brought Namiko off the table before barely makes him flinch this time. “I can put this away,” he offers of the futon once he’s finished and Namiko gets up to start breakfast. “Do you keep yours in the closet between the rooms upstairs?”
Namiko pauses for half a second and then he nods. Makoto softly chuckles. He’s sure that Namiko thinks that it’s strange that he’s kept some things in the same place as Nanase-san, but Makoto is oddly fascinated by it. He keeps that thought to himself, though. He’s already pushed the line once, though he can’t help the stupid, silly grin that forms when he reminds himself that Namiko had pushed it with him.
Chapter 7: The Storm
Breakfast is delicious, as usual, and if it feels a little cozier to take their first meal together at table instead of on the beach, Makoto doesn’t let himself dwell on it. He knows he should go once they’ve cleaned up; it isn’t exactly their normal Saturday and there isn’t reason to take Namiko’s morning. As soon as his lips part, however, Namiko silences him with a look that clearly says you’re staying. “There’s too much mackerel thawed for just me; I’d never finish it all,” he declares as he holds out his hand for Makoto’s dishes.
Makoto knows that’s a fabricated excuse, knows by now that the fish is Namiko’s favorite and that it likely wouldn’t last the day, let alone be permitted to spoil. But he lets it pass with a gentle laugh of acquiescence as he hands off his plate and bowl. “Of course. We wouldn’t want it to go to waste.”
Still smiling, Makoto turns back to gather the cushions from around the table. As he straightens from grabbing the one that he’d used, he sees Namiko still standing in the doorway to the kitchen. “Namiko-san?” Something’s off and his brow furrows, but before he can place it, the wind picks up and drives a pelting rain against the windows over the sink.
Makoto’s stomach flutters.
Makoto blinks, belatedly realizing that Namiko had been speaking. “Mm. Apologies, Namiko-san. What was that?”
“I said besides, I’m not sending you out in that,” Namiko repeats, his own brow furrowed now.
“Ah.” Makoto smiles, it slightly forced; his cheeks warm slightly at the obviousness of it, and he bends to pick up Namiko’s cushion. “Thanks for that,” he says with an equally as awkward chuckle. “I—”
A sharp flash of lightning cuts through a sky suddenly dark enough to be night and eerily flickers through the room. Makoto’s jaw tightens. He’s mortified and does what he can to mentally prepare himself for what he knows will come next, but he still flinches hard enough to drop the cushions to the floor when the thunder cracks over the house. His skin feels clammy, despite the embarrassment that burns through him, and his hands clench into loose fists. Avoiding Namiko’s gaze, he forces them to ease and he bends to collect the cushions again.
“Sensei.” The word is accompanied by a light touch this time and it draws Makoto’s attention from the floor. “Go sit,” Namiko says, and there’s a gentleness to his eyes, his tone, that Makoto hasn’t seen before; he doesn’t know whether to appreciate it or if it makes him feel worse. “Turn the television on, find something to watch, and I’ll be in in a minute with some tea.”
When Namiko comes back in, Makoto has done what he been told, but his eyes are locked firmly on his hands clasped in his lap. He does look up when he sees the tea held out in front of him. “I’m sorry,” he quietly says after thanking Namiko for it.
“That you’re having to see me like this.”
“Idiot.” Makoto glances up, the gently scoffed insult catching him by surprise. “We all have our fears, Sensei,” Namiko continues as he sits.
Makoto nods. “I know. But this…” He breaks for a brief, self-depreciating laugh. “I mean, it's just a storm, right? One would think that, having grown up in a seaside town like I did, I’d at least have grown out of the fear.”
“Or, having grown up in a fishing town, one might realize that you’re more aware than most others of what a storm can do.” The surprise of how closely Namiko hits home brings Makoto’s head up again in a jerk. Thunder snaps again and Makoto’s eyes widen further, hands clenching against a light tremble. Namiko turns slightly where he sits, putting himself just that little bit closer, and their knees lightly brush, providing a tactile point for Makoto to focus on. “That’s it, isn’t it,” Namiko softly says. “You lost someone important to one.”
Makoto smiles, a very small one, but more genuine than his last few. “Loud noises have always made me anxious,” he shares. “I’m able to manage most of them now, but yes. That’s why storms are the worst.” Quietly, he tells Namiko about the Tamura family; where they’d lived on the mountain. “Tamura-san always ran the goldfish game for our festivals and, turns out, I was horrible at it,” he reminisces with a laugh. “I was so disappointed; all grown at five and big enough to try on my own, only to come out of it empty handed. But then, the next day, he came up to the house with some for me… they were good people, the Tamuras.” He sobers then; tells Namiko of the typhoon that had caught so many villagers out on their boats just a few weeks after Obon. “We were all devastated. So many men gone, and that Tamura-san was one of them—”
Thunder cuts Makoto off again and his reaction isn’t quite as stark. Talking has kept the anticipation from building but he still jumps a little bit; a sheepish look goes to Namiko but then Makoto’s brow furrows slightly when he sees how the other man’s hands are clenched. “Are you afraid of storms too, Namiko-san?” he gently asks, and the furrow reappears when Namiko shakes his head.
“Then why…” He lightly touches a curled fist, letting the gesture finish the sentence for him.
The word is muttered as Makoto draws his fingers back and the confusion deepens in his brow. He parts his lips to ask what he means and then notices the hint of pink in Namiko’s cheek, how his shoulders have tensed. He’s reminded of those few moments in the genkan earlier and then, suddenly, it clicks, and warmth floods through him to color his cheeks and the tips of his ears. “Oh.”
The soft acknowledgement hitches into a near-yelp when the television unexpectedly blares an alert. A loud crack of thunder follows in the next second and Makoto’s eyes squeeze closed. The television cuts off and his heart thumps harder, but then a cool hand covers his own.
“Sensei. Makoto.” The soft call of his given name brings his eyes open and he’s looking into calm, kind blue. “It’s alright. I just shut the TV off to silence the alert.”
“…oh.” He lets his breath out, gives Namiko a sheepish look and Namiko shakes his head.
“Don’t. Just… tell me what helps. Other than, you know...” Namiko lightly tightens his hand over Makoto’s and then pulls it back into his lap; Makoto picks up his tea to compensate for the loss and, after a swallow of it, he talks: about Tokyo and Iwatobi, his family and friends, a lot about his siblings and Kisumi. He knows that Namiko has heard some of it from when they’ve talked before, but Namiko just lets him go, and Makoto falls for him a bit more because of it. It’s then that he notices a peculiar expression on Namiko’s face and, tipping his head, Makoto asks him about it.
“It’s nothing,” Namiko blandly declares. “I thought I knew the name, is all. Kisumi,” he states when Makoto’s head tips in question.
“Ah. The realty documents maybe, from when your house was purchased?”
“Mm, that’s likely it.”
Makoto nods slowly. There’s something off in Namiko’s bland intonation, almost as if he’s too disinterested, but before he can ask, a sharp crack from a second storm cell rattles through the house and he winces. After a second or two, however, he softly laughs.
“Maybe because we were just talking about the house, but I suddenly remembered Nanase-san telling me once that thunder wasn’t scary at all; it was just the gods in Takamagahara clearing their go boards.” He grins. “I knew she was just being silly, but it helped; I couldn’t help but giggle every time it thundered after ‘til that storm passed.” Holding onto his smile, he talks about her some, how he’d help her in the gardens and the games they’d play, how she’d been like a grandmother to him.
“She must have been very special,” Namiko softly says and Makoto nods.
“She was. My heart broke when died.”
“… was that the only time?”
The question surprises Makoto. It isn’t that Namiko doesn’t participate in their conversations, but he’s never asked anything quite that direct. It makes him loathe to put Namiko off, despite the way his anxiety is suddenly prickling at him again. “No,” he replies with a slight smile. “There’s been one other. I was in a relationship once and it didn’t end well.”
“Ahh. I’m sorry,” Namiko apologizes awkwardly, but Makoto just shakes his head.
“Don’t be. It was hard, for a long time, but I’m good now.” He snorts softly after he speaks and he shakes his head, then he sees the question in Namiko’s brow arch. “Just irony of word choice,” he replies and then he smiles a bit again. “I was head over heels and found out too late that Koji wasn’t; he was just that good at pretending he was. Or maybe he was at first; I don’t know.” He shrugs. “Regardless, he wasn’t honest, or faithful, and when his lies finally tripped him up, it was apparently all my fault for being so boringly good,” he ends with air quotes and hot color in his cheeks.
“How stupid.” Makoto looks up in surprise at the venom that taints Namiko’s voice. “Good isn’t a fault. Not in this world. And I—”
A muted trill cuts Namiko off; Makoto’s brow furrows at the sound even as he excuses himself and shifts to grab his phone from his shorts pocket. It’s the tone he’d assigned for Konoe’s texts and he can’t ignore it. His pulse races slightly as he reads through the message and his breath catches in a soft, “Oh.”
Makoto looks up when Namiko calls him. “It was a message from my director. He talked to Nishimura-sensei last night and he’ll be back a week from Monday.”
There’s silence at first, and then, “So then, nine days from now I’ll be his patient again?”
“Mm,” Makoto confirms. He can’t look away from Namiko’s eyes.
The air crackles between them in that pause and Makoto swallows softly. “Yeah?”
Namiko glances away. “If this was nine days from now, I’d tell you that I think that Koji must have been blind and oblivious if he thought you were boring,” he quietly, awkwardly, says, and Makoto lowly laughs as pleasured warmth rushes through him.
“And I think it’s a good thing Nishimura-sensei will be back next week.”
Namiko glances over at him, brow arched. “That tired of me, Tachibana-sensei?”
“No!” Makoto blurts and then he pouts slightly when he sees the laughter glint through Namiko’s eyes. “Mean, Namiko-san.”
Makoto knows that Namiko’s toying with him now, so he figures two can play the game, and he’s too exhilarated to heed the small voice inside telling him he shouldn’t. His gaze deliberately drops to linger on Namiko’s mouth and then he slowly brings it back to those blue, blue eyes. “Ask me again once you’re officially back under his care.”
Lightning cracks through the sky, rain pelts against the glass, and Makoto doesn’t flinch at all. He’s not even aware of it.
Chapter 8: Fallen
It’s Saturday morning again, and Makoto’s last as Namiko’s therapist. Makoto shakes his head, chuckling softly as he thinks about the past week, the past several. For the most part, he’s pleased with the balance he’s managed to keep through it all. What he does is very hands-on and a physically interactive job but, truth told, he hasn’t struggled too much with keeping his sessions with Namiko clinically professional. He truly does have a passion for his work, for healing, and Namiko is no exception. He couldn’t give Namiko his best care if he permitted his mind to wander into places that it shouldn’t. He can honestly say that, during the prescribed times, Namiko was his patient and nothing more.
It had been outside of those hour blocks of times that he’d had to work a bit harder to keep his head and heart in line.
Despite Makoto’s best efforts, his thoughts would wander sometimes, even more so as of late. Things had shifted between him and Namiko as their friendship had formed: glances would linger, conversations and silences both carried more weight, and they could read each other so well. Makoto has fallen, and hard, and he can’t even bring himself to be concerned about it, despite how deeply he’d been wounded the last time he’d given over his heart. Namiko looks at him, considers him, in ways that he knows now that Koji never had, and everything is natural, easy between them… Yes, the times outside of their sessions have become increasingly hard. Makoto smiles a bit. But he’d managed, and Namiko had seemed to know when it was becoming a struggle for him, because he would shift back from that line to more neutral ground as easily as the surf that he loved to play in.
Last Saturday had been the exception. Makoto knows he hadn’t just pushed the line of propriety; he’d deliberately extended a hand over it. He warms when he recalls Namiko’s disappointment in the genkan, how Makoto’s need to assure him had been so strong that he’d let his instinct take control. How Namiko had taken the proverbial hand just long enough to let Makoto know he was struggling with him, and then had nudged Makoto’s back across it. And then, when the storm blew in… Makoto softly snorts, though he holds his smile. It’s still embarrassing to think about, but he’s grateful to Namiko, too. He hadn’t mocked or berated him; he’d just offered comfort and care. Beyond that, he’d let Makoto see again that he wasn’t the only one finding it difficult to maintain that line. Makoto breathes a chuckle as he steps out and locks his door behind him. It really isn’t a surprise that Konoe’s text had briefly blurred it for them both, even if they’d only crossed it verbally through their careful innuendo.
Then the storm had ended, and he’d come home.
Makoto feels his cheeks and the tips of his ears burn as he hurries down the stairs to his car. Being alone with his thoughts had proven more distracting than having the object of his affections right there and, to make matters worse, another batch of rain had come through. Unable to run or bike or be on the beach, he’d felt caged, with no way to clear his anxious energy and eager thoughts; thoughts that had reminded him how soft and smooth Namiko’s hand had been, how Makoto’s name had sounded from his lips, how playfulness had briefly sparked Namiko’s eyes as he’d teased him. He’d tried everything from video games to a book, had called Kisumi to see if he’d wanted to catch dinner, but underneath, he’d known he’d just been delaying the inevitable. And, when his best friend hadn’t answered, Makoto had done the only thing he’d had left. He’d given into it and, after his shower, he’d let his mind wander to Namiko and everything he’d forbidden himself to think about before as he’d stroked and fingered himself into orgasm.
After, he’d slept like a rock and, when he’d woken the next morning, he hadn’t felt nearly as guilty as he probably should have. He still doesn’t. He’s only human, after all, and it had been an emotionally charged day. On top of that, he’d essentially been told that, in just a few days, the nature of his thoughts wouldn’t matter, and he has no doubt that Namiko is interested, too. Every move toward this point has been in response to subtle nuances and shifts on Namiko’s part, and Namiko wouldn’t have hesitated to shut him down if he’d been misinterpreting things, Makoto thinks with no small amount of amusement. Regardless, getting it out of his system, even if just temporarily, had helped and then, after Wednesday’s session, he’d done everything he possibly could to finish Namiko’s chart, even drafting his transfer of care note so that all he has to do is add his evaluation from this morning and submit it. Which means that, by dinnertime today, their professional relationship will have officially ended. Makoto wonders what Namiko would think if he came back again right after, and then he laughs at himself as he contemplates whether or not he should go back for his laptop so that he can just submit the report from there.
If he hadn’t already left the village limits, he might.
The base of the mountain comes into sight and Makoto’s brow furrows. Namiko isn’t there and, this time, there isn’t a reason for it, so he doesn’t feel quite as lame as he had last week when that worry prickles through him. Halfway up the steps, he freezes as he wonders if Namiko’s changed his mind about him, but he pushes past that. Even if he has, it doesn’t matter. Makoto’s patient hadn’t made his scheduled appointment and Makoto needs to make sure that he’s alright.
Relief washes through him when, a few seconds later, Namiko promptly opens the door when he knocks, but it’s quickly dissipated by a wave of confusion.
“I called your switchboard and canceled our session,” Namiko explains as he steps out from the genkan, ready to go.
Concern, and a bit of anxiety, push Makoto’s befuddlement away. “Are you alright?” he asks, studying Namiko’s eyes as he slips his phone from his pocket. His brow furrows slightly again. He hadn’t missed a call…
“I’m fine, Sensei,” Namiko assures, gentleness edging his monotone. “They probably haven’t had a chance to let you know. I just did it a minute ago.”
“I was already on my way here by then!” Makoto protests, extremely confused now.
“I know. But if I would have called earlier then they would have canceled you. And you would have fretted about it ‘til you called or showed up anyway.”
Makoto blinks rapidly, and then realization dawns and a smile slowly curves his lips. “You could have just said you still wanted to see me today, Namiko-san.”
Namiko huffs and turns his head to the side with a muttered, “Annoying,” and Makoto laughs.
“Well? Why else would you be dressed to go anyway, ne?” he can’t help but tease a bit more. Namiko doesn’t answer him; he just turns and locks the door—which is answer enough. “I’m still going to have you go through a round of the aquatic exercises for me,” he cautions, sobering. “I obviously won’t be documenting on it, but I won’t feel right if I don’t at least mentally sign you off on it. That said, I can’t guarantee that Nishimura-sensei won’t want you to come into the natatorium so that he can close it off your chart.”
Namiko’s lips press slightly but then he gives a single nod. “It would still be worth it. As long as it’s just the one time.”
Makoto’s breath catches slightly and then he smiles, pleasure warming his face. “I think that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.” His tone is light, but he feels it deeply, the implication that lay between Namiko’s words.
Something must show because Namiko colors and turns his head away. “Be quiet,” he lowly sulks, and Makoto softly laughs.
“Yes, yes.” His grin softens then and he offers Namiko a reassuring glance. “Don’t worry, Namiko-san. I’ll make sure it’s just the once.”
As usual, their cove is empty when they get there. Since they’d been coming, others had only shown up once, and it had been travelers passing through; by the time the couple had laid out their picnic, he and Namiko had been on their way off of the beach for lunch. Makoto grins softly as he watches Namiko carelessly drop his bag and then strip off his tee-shirt and toss it in that general direction as he hurries to greet the water. He follows at a slightly slower pace and, after giving Namiko a few minutes, he encourages him into the regimen. “Right, then. Let’s see.”
Namiko nods and heads out slightly deeper; Makoto follows and then watches him intently as he moves through the various exercises. Once he’s finished, Makoto instructs him to repeat a couple of the sequences, and then he smiles widely. There’s absolutely no room for improvement in what he’s seen and, if Namiko would have still been his patient, Makoto believes he’d have discharged him from his care within a few sessions anyway.
Namiko reads his smile, gives Makoto one of his own, a full, genuine, honest-to-goodness smile, and it steals Makoto’s breath away. “That’s enough of that then,” Makoto says, stepping in closer. “You’ve worked hard, Namiko-san; I’m sure you won’t be under Nishimura-sensei’s care for long, you’ve done so well.”
Makoto chuckles softly as he moves behind Namiko; he really does think Namiko would benefit from more human interaction, but he can’t deny that there’s pleasure to be found in knowing Namiko doesn’t mind it with him. “I figured you’d feel that way,” he admits as he brings his hands to Namiko’s shoulder. Heart fluttering with anticipation and his boldness, he lightly runs his right fingers down from the nape of Namiko’s neck to his acromion as his left hand traces the line of his inferior angulus. It’s a different sensation entirely, his fingers slipping over Namiko’s smooth, wet skin, Makoto touching him because he can and not because he’s supposed to be. Namiko tenses but doesn’t pull away; Makoto can see the pleasure Namiko finds at his touch in how his skin rises and his soft breaths quicken slightly.
“What are you doing?”
Makoto’s gut lightly tightens at the slightly breathless tone. “Checking for post therapeutic changes,” he murmurs as he prods the shoulder area, and then soothingly strokes his fingers over the area again, though Namiko hadn’t shown any sign of pain.
“You’ve never done that before. You’ve just had me demonstrate range of motion after.”
Makoto smiles, chuckles softly as he prods along the area again. “Mm. I never dared to before.”
“…so, I’ve been receiving subpar treatment this whole time, Sensei?”
Makoto’s teeth flash with his grin; he knows that Namiko is trying to fluster him, but he’s not going to bite this time. “No. demonstration of range of motion is just as effective. I could see by your movements that it was having the desired effect.”
“Hn. So, this is just an excuse to touch me now that you can.”
Makoto swallows; he’s warm despite the coolness of the water and breeze. “Busted,” he murmurs, trying for a light tone; that warmth deepens when it comes out slightly husky instead.
“Makoto.” His hands leave Namiko’s shoulder, move in toward his spine, then slowly stroke down either side of it.
Makoto’s lips briefly curve; want taints Namiko’s voice as well and he steps closer as his hands come to a loose rest at Namiko’s waist. “Hm?”
“You don’t need one anymore, Makoto.” Namiko turns slightly, looks over his shoulder, cheeks lightly pinked and eyes dark beneath his lashes. “You just can.”
“Right,” The word washes over Namiko’s lips as Makoto closes the distance to take his kiss.
Chapter 9: No Net
Makoto’s first taste of Namiko’s lips is just a brush, really. The angle is too awkward for anything deeper, but it’s enough to make him crave more. Namiko must feel the same because he turns fully toward him and then presses his mouth to Makoto’s again; a slight tilt of his head and their lips slot together perfectly.
For a second or two they break apart, both of them breathing rapidly, then they come together again, mouths fitting right from the start this time. Namiko lightly catches and tugs Makoto’s lower lip between his own as his hands slide up Makoto’s chest to his shoulders; one continues into his hair and Makoto lowly groans. He’s not sure from which part, he just knows he wants more of it all. His hands tighten around Namiko’s waist, thumbs caressing the juts of his hipbones over his jammers as he sucks at Namiko’s upper lip in turn. Nails press into his scalp, Namiko pushes closer, so Makoto sucks at it again and another groan slides into Namiko’s mouth when Namiko teases his lower lip with his teeth this time. He can’t believe this is happening; that this gorgeous, intelligent, intriguing man truly seems to want him as badly as Makoto does him.
Another brief parting, another look through lidded eyes; Namiko nudges Makoto’s nose with his own, and Makoto again takes the invitation, takes Namiko’s open mouth. Namiko’s tongue is waiting to tease over his own and then push between his lips. Makoto lets him have the kiss and he runs his hands down Namiko’s thighs from his hips; after a brief hesitation, Makoto slides his hands up again and then back, one coming to rest on Namiko’s ass as the other threads through his hair. His breath catches when Namiko moves his hand from Makoto’s shoulder to brush slim fingers along his clavicle, and then again, sharp enough to break the kiss, as he lightly teases those fingers over Makoto’s nipple. Part of him wonders if they’re moving too fast, and he’s still in awe that this is real and not some dream that comes to him unbidden in sleep when he can’t keep the walls of propriety in place, but when Namiko’s hand shifts to his hip and he starts to trace that same path with his mouth, Makoto’s last bits of restraint and worry snap and he gives himself over to the primally wired commands of touch, taste and feel.
Namiko’s mouth reaches his nipple and Makoto’s head tips back in a hiss as that clever tongue rolls over it. Hand leaving Namiko’s hair, Makoto cups his cheek, brings their mouths back together again, licking into Namiko’s deeply, hungrily as that hand joins the other at Namiko’s ass to squeeze, to pull him up and in harder against him. He feels Namiko’s breath hitch, but Makoto wants to hear, so he does it again as he sucks at Namiko’s tongue, and there it is: a soft, low moan from Namiko’s throat, and it does as much for Makoto’s libido as the push of Namiko’s cock against his own.
Everything blurs at that point; Makoto knows that Namiko’s hands, and mouth, are everywhere they can reach, but he can’t pinpoint what arouses him more, what touches ignite more than others. It’s all pleasure, a continual wave of it that steals his breath, though the sting of Namiko’s bite to his collarbone finds enough of it left to tear a ragged gasp of it. He swears he hears a growl rumble beneath the rush of his blood, the white noise of the waves, but then Namiko’s hold on him tightens and, through it, Makoto feels the rhythm of his grinding thrusts start to falter. He’s close to coming, Namiko, because of him, his touches, his sounds, his taste, and Makoto groans as he drops his hands to Namiko’s ass again to hitch him up and into a slow, hard roll as he’s pushed to the brink because of it. He doesn’t think he’s ever felt so wanted.
Namiko whines in displeasure from having his desperate rutting interrupted; the sound, Namiko’s blatant need for him, jolts through him and Makoto is done. His head drops back from where he’d been mouthing Namiko’s neck and his hips stutter hard as he orgasms, the contrast between the heat of his release and the coolness of the water intensifying it. Muted wanton sounds and soft, rapid pants make their way through his haze a few seconds later; still panting harshly himself, Makoto returns his mouth to Namiko’s neck, slips a hand between them and curves his fingers around the ridge of Namiko’s cock through his jammers. Namiko curses, his nails bite into either shoulder as he fucks twice, three times into the makeshift channel and then comes, his cry coming hot and stifled against Makoto’s jaw and chin.
Lightly kissing and licking at the bruise he’s sucked into Namiko’s neck, Makoto rubs him through his orgasm. His hand stills and his other arm tightens around Namiko’s waist when Namiko slumps bonelessly against him; once they’ve caught their breaths a bit, Makoto tips Namiko’s face up with a touch to his jaw and then kisses him, slow, deep and tender. It’s reciprocated, and Makoto’s lips curve against Namiko’s when they part. That warmth and pleasure of being wanted, cared for, gently rises beneath everything else, and a contented sigh lightly ruffles Namiko’s hair as Makoto just holds him after and Namiko’s hands lightly stroke down his back from his shoulders to his hips. “Let’s swim,” Namiko murmurs as he takes half a step back and puts space between them.
Makoto beams down at him and nods. “Mm.”
The early morning passes quietly, but in a lazy, comfortable way, as they just enjoy the water together. Finally, Makoto’s stomach won’t be ignored any longer—or, rather, Namiko refuses to ignore it, despite Makoto’s insistences that he’ll be fine for just a little longer. By the time they stop their light back and forth and walk back up to the road, they’re dry enough for the short drive back to Namiko’s. Makoto has spent enough time in and out of the water through his life that, typically, he’s content to just put his clothes back on over his jammers until he goes home after lunch. Today’s different, however, and he can’t help but grimace slightly as the lycra sticks in ways, and places, that it usually doesn’t as he gets out of the car.
“You can shower, if you want,” Namiko offers as they start up the steps together, and Makoto smiles, grateful.
“Please. Though, do you want to go first?” He nods when Namiko shakes his head and, once inside, Makoto heads straight there, depositing his bag onto the counter in the changing room, tugging out his tee shirt and shorts, and then setting, and stepping under, the spray. He peels off his jammers and then sighs in pleasure when the water strikes him after; a slight smile curves his lips as he bends to pick his suit up to perfunctorily rinse, and then wring, it out. The morning hadn’t turned out at all as he’d anticipated when he’d left his apartment, but he certainly has no complaint. A soft hiss, not entirely of pain, slips through his teeth as the water strikes the marks Namiko had left on him and warmth worms low through his gut as he recalls what he’d experienced earlier. He’d never felt pleasure like that before, so intense and on so many levels, and gods, if it was that good just grinding and partially clothed… well, he doesn’t dare let his mind wander any further than that.
A quick turn of the dial to the left cools him down again. He laughs softly, at himself, out of happiness; he doesn’t know which, maybe both, but he can’t help it either way. Finished, he turns the water off and then he realizes he hadn’t grabbed a towel. This time he’s definitely laughing at himself, and he pokes his head around the short wall to call for Namiko, only to blink in surprise when he sees that he’s already in the changing room. There’s a towel in his hands and he’s just quietly staring at Makoto’s things where they’re laid out; Makoto’s brow furrows slightly in concern when Namiko starts when he lightly calls his name.
“Ahh, sorry.” Namiko meets his eyes briefly as he hands over the towel and then he looks away again.
Makoto silences an affectionate chuckle that wants to slip. He finds the awkwardness endearing, especially after earlier when Namiko had been so bold, but he doesn’t want to add to it, so he swallows the laughter down and asks instead, “How did you know?”
A faint smile briefly curves what of Namiko’s mouth he can see. “You just need so much looking after,” he says quietly and then he leaves Makoto to dry and dress.
Makoto simply cannot stop smiling. He can’t think how long it’s been since he’s been this happy, wonders if he’s ever been, and when he comes out to a plate ready for him at table and a cup of coffee he knows will be just as he likes it, he realizes right then. He hasn’t.
“Eat,” Namiko says and Makoto looks up, finds himself looking at Namiko’s back. “I’m going to go clean up.”
Makoto’s brow furrows slightly at the behavior and that giddiness fades a bit. His first thought is that he’d done something wrong, but he simply hasn’t had time to between the shower and now, and then he feels stupid for thinking that. Of course Namiko wants to clean up; it was the first thing Makoto had wanted to do when they’d gotten back to the house. “Why are you so intent on sabotaging yourself?” he sighs in exasperation, and he then he lets it go and eats.
Namiko hasn’t come back by the time he’s done so he takes his dishes to the sink. That niggling returns when it and the drainer are empty; he’d not been in the shower that long, so he deduces that Namiko had only cooked for him. He thinks back over that morning: he knows he hadn’t read the situation wrong. He bears the marks to show it and can still feel every eager press of Namiko’s mouth and roll of his hips. But maybe… maybe Namiko thinks they pushed too far too fast now, he amends from the he’s having regrets that had come to mind first. Not that there’s a lot of difference. Except that there’s a world of it.
“Oi.” Makoto’s head jerks up and he looks at Namiko in the doorway. “Leave those,” Namiko instructs, and Makoto nods as he turns from the sink.
“You didn’t eat.”
“I had fruit while I cooked. I wasn’t hungry for anything hot.”
It makes sense, and it does relieve him a bit, but Makoto can’t shake the feeling that something is off, though he doesn’t know if something really is or if it’s just because he’d thought there was. Foolish, he thinks of himself again. Maybe it’s not Namiko at all; maybe it’s him overthinking things. He does have the propensity to do that.
So he absolutely doesn’t when Namiko fails to call him on it like he usually does.
“Let’s go for a walk,” he says instead, and he feels a little better when Namiko nods, and then better again when they step out into the fresh air. Doing something is always better; it breaks Makoto’s circular thoughts and he actually smiles a bit when he glances at Namiko’s profile. He’s thinking about something. Makoto can tell from the set of his eyes and jaw and suddenly he feels foolish again. Ten weeks isn’t long in the grand scheme of things, but they’ve come to know each other well, and it’s been a natural progression, their friendship to this point, how they’ve picked up on each other’s nuances and tells, on each other’s attraction. And Namiko doesn’t talk a lot, but Makoto knows he wouldn’t hesitate to voice his displeasure if something was wrong.
Smiling, Makoto lets that be the end of it. “Let’s go this way,” he murmurs to Namiko and then he leads him away from the shrine’s structures and to the viewing deck. A breeze kicks up to ruffle through Makoto’s hair and, grinning, he leans against the guardrail. “I loved coming here when I was a kid,” he shares. “There’s no better place to see the fireworks.” He turns around, leans back against the rail to look at Namiko. “Obon’s coming up. I won’t ask about the festival,” he says softly, knowing that the crowd of people would probably be too much. “But would you come watch the fireworks with me?”
Makoto blinks; he isn’t sure what he’d expected, but the terseness definitely catches him off guard and, like that, he’s tense again. “Ah, it’s alright,” he replies with an awkward laugh, then he offers another smile. “Maybe anot—”
“No, Makoto. I can’t. Not just Obon, but this.” Namiko gestures between them.
“Us?” Makoto blurts, and it’s stupid; there’d been no room for misinterpretation, but it’s slipped out and he quickly wishes it hadn’t because,
“There is no us. There can’t be.” Namiko turns, takes a step away and, in desperation, Makoto grabs him by the wrist.
“Namiko-san, wait! Please! Whatever it is, I’m so—”
“Don’t!” Makoto shrinks away from that tone, from Namiko’s glare, and Namiko takes the chance to harshly twist away. “Just don’t.” He takes a step away, and then another. “Goodbye, Sensei,” he pauses to stiffly say and then Namiko stalks off, his pace shifting into a run as he leaves the viewing deck.
Chapter 10: Broken
Makoto glances at the clock, rolls over, and grabs his phone from where he’d tossed it onto the charging pad on his headboard. A slight smile forms as he reads the text. He’d been right. It’s his mom, sending him a photo of his family all dressed up for the festival in Kunisaki, where her family is: his parents, Ran and Ren crammed into a selfie, all of them smiling. Wish you could be with us! it says at the bottom. But, Obon in Iwatobi next year!
Makoto’s smile softens. Even with time and distance between them, they’re still very close-knit, the five of them, and he does miss them. Yes! And I’ll have time enough with the schedule how it is to come to Osaka for the New Year. It’s not as far off as it seems!
No. Not long at all. And you’re working so hard; we’re proud of you, Son. We love you!
Heart aching softly, he types back that he loves them too, and to have fun. Once he’s done, he tosses the phone back onto the charging pad, and then he rolls over with a sigh. As much as he really does miss them, he’s glad that he couldn’t go; equally as glad that it isn’t their year to come to Iwatobi. He really isn’t in the mood for the socialization, not even with his family. Especially since, even now, he can’t hide a thing from his mom, and there would be questions. And Makoto definitely isn’t ready to talk. He doesn’t know if he’ll ever be.
Makoto doesn’t consider himself naïve. Especially not after Koji. He knows that people use, and dispose of, others; that it happens all the time, and even more often to people with good hearts. It had been a hard, hurtful lesson and it was why he’d never had any interest in opening himself up to someone like that again after. Yet here he was, in that same situation again.
Makoto’s lips purse together slightly. Even as the thought comes and goes, he almost desperately believes that it’s wrong, that Namiko hadn’t used him like Koji had. There had been too much in that look Namiko had given him just before their first kiss, and far too much in their last, to let him believe it. He knows that, at one time, he’d also thought that Koji’s want and affection were true, but he knows just as certainly that this is different, that it wasn’t his own emotions clouding his judgment. That it was real. He’s played over every moment between the beach and when Namiko had run off time and again and that instinct hasn’t changed, so the only thing that makes any sort of sense is that Namiko had gotten spooked off. But then why hasn’t he reached out or come back? Makoto sighs as the question taunts through his head for the millionth time. He doesn’t know, but after almost two weeks, it’s clear that he isn’t. He’s even had his orthopod from Tokyo send orders to discontinue his therapeutic care.
Maybe it is the same thing as before, he thinks. Maybe he really is that naïve. Makoto rolls over, tells himself that he’s just tired and not sulking in bed like he used to when he was a kid, and he closes his eyes.
Makoto’s lips press and he closes his eyes tighter. He’s not waiting to hear from anyone else; his family would have left for the festival by now and the only other person he cares to hear from doesn’t even have his cell—not that Makoto, at this point, believes Namiko would contact him anyway. His cheeks burn hotly all of a sudden. He can’t help but feel a bit promiscuous that he’d gone as far as he had before they’d even exchanged numbers. It had taken him much longer to go beyond kissing with Koji and they’d known each other for an age before that—one of the things Koji had snidely tossed out at him at the end—and his face gets hotter when his next thought is how much like a schoolgirl he’s thinking and acting instead of a grown man.
… so boringly good, taunts through his mind and Makoto curls into himself tighter.
Makoto actually scowls at the second tone, but then, after a second or two, he sighs heavily. He’s never felt right about ignoring someone who’s reaching out to him, and just because he’s feeling low right now doesn’t mean they should have to, so he rolls over and snags his phone.
Ready to go?
Makoto’s brow furrows as he reads Kisumi’s text. What do you mean?
Obon! The festival! You told me to text when I was on my way. I’m on my way.
Makoto gapes at his phone, mind furiously scrambling for when they’d had this conversation. He can’t, for the life of him, recall it at all, and even though his head hasn’t been right as of late, surely he’d have remembered that, he thinks as he pushes himself off the bed. He catches sight of himself in the balcony door as he rushes past, rumpled, unshaved, in the boxers and tee-shirt he’d woken up in that morning. Then again…
Right! he hurriedly texts back. Got caught up in something but I’m getting ready now! He hurries into the bathroom, then rushes back out and down the short hall to flip the deadbolt and lock. door’s open!
Makoto’s still shaving when Kisumi knocks and then walks in; his friend arches a brow as if to say, really, and Makoto gives him a sheepish look. He also mentally groans when he sees Kisumi in kimono, though he should have known. Kisumi doesn’t do things halfway. Under normal circumstances, Makoto wouldn’t mind, but he doesn’t feel like going at all, never mind the extra fuss. However, he’d obviously committed to it, so he’ll suck it up, kimono and all.
Finished, Makoto rinses his face and then dries off; as he lowers the towel, he catches a glimpse of Kisumi’s narrowed eyes from his peripheral. Crap. He throws on a smile, Kisumi’s eyes narrow further, and he trails behind Makoto toward his bed. “Kisumi!” Makoto blurts, cheeks coloring, and Kisumi lightly rolls his eyes.
“We used to change together all the time,” he reminds, even as he turns his back and steps away a few paces. “I’ve showered with you, Makoto.”
“Yeah, back when we were kids!” Makoto protests as he changes his underclothing. He goes to the wardrobe and reaches back to the far-right corner for his kimono; something flutters down from the top shelf when he jars it in his haste, and he stoops to pick the paper up. It’s the great blessing fortune he’d drawn his first full day back in Iwatobi. Makoto’s chest aches slightly and, with a derisive snort, he shoves it back from where it had fallen.
His eyes clench shut when he hears Kisumi’s concern. “It’s nothing,” he assures as he slips into the deep green linen. He’s attempting for light, but his tone sounds hollow even to him.
“Mm.” Kisumi steps closer and then, with a soft tut, takes Makoto’s obi from him. “So much nothing that you’re getting ready for something you never agreed to in the first place, ne?” he murmurs as he slips the obi around Makoto’s waist.
Makoto’s voice abandons him in exchange for a string of frustrated, embarrassed sounds, though he snaps his jaw closed when Kisumi looks up at him affectionately. “I’m not sorry,” Kisumi softly admits as he starts on the knot. “I don’t know exactly what’s going on, but you needed to get out—outside of work, and out of your head—and I knew that if I asked, you’d turn me down.”
“Kisumi.” Makoto feels bad because he can’t deny it and he gives a soft, helpless sounding laugh. “I feel pathetic for being so obvious.”
“You should feel pathetic for not talking to your best friend about what’s eating you up,” Kisumi reprimands as he finishes with the obi. “But yes, you’re that obvious, too. You’re like a day with no sun when you’re down. And you’ve only ever slipped off the face of the earth like this one time before,” Kisumi adds gently after a brief pause. Makoto’s heart clenches and he can’t bring himself to meet Kisumi’s eyes, but it’s okay. Kisumi knows, and he just tweaks the knot in Makoto’s obi one final time, then lightly grips his fingers in a gentle tug. “C’mon. Let’s go.”
Kisumi drops the light hold at the door but, once they’re on street level and can walk side by side, he shifts nearer. He doesn’t take Makoto’s hand again, just walks closely enough so their arms and hands occasionally will brush, closely enough so that Makoto can feel his presence, his warmth. Makoto’s chest tightens again, but in a good way this time. He owes so much to Kisumi; from their very early days he’s been there, tugging Makoto out of his shell, gently pulling him along, drawing him out of his shy awkwardness with his gregarious and outgoing nature, helping Makoto find and appreciate his own. And the light sting in his eyes might not be entirely from the brightness of the festival lights as they step beneath them.
Kisumi doesn’t say anything as they walk, but Makoto isn’t surprised, either, when the first stop they make is at a kiosk offering sake and dried squid. Makoto is not a drinker, and he hasn’t been great about eating as of late; by the time the tokkuri is empty and they leave, he’s definitely feeling it, and he can’t help but give himself over to the energy around him more. The little ones dashing about make him smile, as do the grannies and grandpas walking through more staidly, wrinkled hands tucked into gallant arms. He softly laughs when he sees two young boys scattering ahead of their mothers who are lightly chatting. “That was us, not so long ago,” he murmurs with a nudge to draw Kisumi’s attention.
“It was!” Kisumi laughs when, without seeming to look, one of the women calls out to the boys in gentle reprimand for their over-exuberance. “That was your mom,” he says with a reminiscent grin. “She never raised her voice, but I was always too in awe of her mom-sense to dare act out in front of her.”
Makoto snickers. “You think she never raised her voice,” he corrects, but then his smile gentles. “But yeah. And she’s still got it.”
“Good thing they’re in Kunisaki this year then, ne?”
The question is light and casual, but Makoto knows the purpose behind it, knows he can either agree and let it drop, or take the invitation for what it is. For a moment or two, he doesn’t do either, but when they reach the end of the booths and turn off the main strip, he softly sighs. “Yeah. Because what would I say? Well, Mom, I fell hard for one of my patients, had sex with him as soon as he wasn’t under my care anymore because I thought he really cared for me, too, and then he literally ran away from me a couple hours later? Makoto softly snorts and, while the alcohol has loosened his filters and tongue, he knows the warmth in his face has nothing to do with the sake.
Makoto stops when he feels Kisumi’s hand on his bicep, but he doesn’t turn toward his friend. He’s too mortified, from his blurt and from what he’d blurted, from the sting he feels in his eyes, even for Kisumi. And now he’s standing there in some alley, partially drunk and nearly crying, and, gods, if doesn’t feel more pathetic than he can ever recall feeling before. “Yanno, maybe Koj—”
“Stop.” Makoto blinks in surprise, eyes jerking up to Kisumi’s when the firm command is accompanied by an even firmer grip to his arms. “Stop right there,” Kisumi persists, still in that gently forceful tone. “He wasn’t right. There isn’t anything wrong with you, Makoto.” Kisumi frees Makoto’s right bicep, and his fingers lightly comb the fringe back from his eyes. “Not a thing. And there’s nothing to be ashamed about for what happened with Namiko-san, either. Even if your mom did know, she’d also know you must have been sure, heart and head, or you wouldn’t have let it happen. Because you’re good. And there isn’t anything wrong with that. There’s not enough of that.”
Makoto’s eyes close when he feels the press of a light kiss to his forehead; he brings a hand up to wipe away an errant tear that had escaped down his cheek as Kisumi puts space between them again. “Namiko-san said something like that, before—” The words slip out quietly, he cuts himself off, and then he gives a shaky sigh. “I just wish I understood, Kisumi.”
“I know.” Kisumi’s fingers filter through his bangs again. “But I also know you’ll find the right boy someday and that, when you do, he’s going to see, and love, you for everything wonderful that you are and there won’t be a thing he won’t risk or give up for you. So don’t you give up, and don’t you lock yourself away, okay?” His hand drops and he laces his fingers through Makoto’s.
Makoto opens his eyes, gives Kisumi a small smile as he lightly squeezes Kisumi’s fingers. “Mm.” He doesn’t believe it himself, not right now, but Kisumi is so certain, and he’s just so tired of thinking and worrying and wondering that it’s almost a relief to surrender and agree. And he knows he can rest in Kisumi’s confidence until he finds his own again.
Chapter 11: The Hero
Makoto and Kisumi work their way back through the line of booths. They pass on the sake this time, but Makoto doesn’t argue when Kisumi sits him down at a picnic table with a couple of orders of takoyaki. He feels better for it and, when Kisumi asks if he wants to go to the viewing deck to see the lanterns and watch the fireworks, he hesitates, but then he nods. Makoto knows that he can’t avoid either the mountain or the water; they’re a part of Iwatobi, part of why he came back, and he’s really not ready to be alone again yet anyway, so he agrees.
By the time they finish eating, the flow of people amongst the booths have thinned; everyone is looking for a place to view the fireworks and, from how the crowd gets thicker again as they near the eastern side of the village, it seems that he and Kisumi aren’t the only ones heading to Misagozaki. As the thought passes through, Makoto gets jostled; he looks over to apologize, but the words die on his lips. The guy who’d bumped him has already moved away with another man, they both seeming to follow a woman, carrying a crying child, who’s turned away from the strip and into a road that leads to one of the wealthier subdivisions. Something about it doesn’t sit well. Makoto knows his hometown. If the men were with her, they’d be with her, one of them taking on the weight of the boy, or at least encouraging him to walk like a man. And the way they kind of meander their way down the sidewalk makes him feel like it isn’t just coincidental timing. They don’t belong there.
It isn’t until Kisumi calls Makoto’s name that he realizes his own pace has slowed, About that time, the crowd has thinned out again and the two men pick up speed, cutting through the barber’s lot and entering that street with purpose. Makoto’s gut clenches. “Makoto?” Kisumi calls again, and Makoto shushes him, tells him what he’s seen.
“I can’t prove that they’re going to try something, but it just seems off to me, and I won’t rest until I know they got home safe. I’m going after them. You go on to the viewing deck; I’ll be there in a bit.”
“Are you insane?”
“No, I get it. I do,” he says over Makoto’s frustration. “But I’m coming with you.”
Makoto flashes him a quick smile then and they cross the street in a brisk walk. “Thanks again for the takoyaki,” he says, not bothering to keep down his voice. They can’t see the men anymore but, if they’re still within hearing range and they belong there, they won’t think anything of it. If not, maybe it’ll deter them from whatever it is they’re planning. He really, really hopes it’s the former, but then they hear a cut-off scream, and the sound of a young child wailing. Makoto’s stomach flips once, and then he sees red. He’s not going to let whatever happen, not in Iwatobi, not if he can help it, and he takes off on a run toward the sound. He hears Kisumi running beside him, glances over when he falls behind, then puts his focus forward again once he sees Kisumi is on his phone, probably calling the police.
It doesn’t take Makoto long to find them: just a turn down one of the larger side streets and then into an unlit cul de sac, mostly still under construction. One of the men has the child and the other has the woman against a piece of construction equipment. He can only deduce that they’d waited until she’d been crossing the opening and that they’d dragged her into the dark. His neck and spine prickle, he feels sick from empathy and fear, but when he hears the boy’s muffled sobs and the woman’s pleas to the men to not hurt him, his anger takes hold again and he stalks up to the one closest to him, roughly whipping him around by a strong grip to his arm. The man drops the boy as he gives a shocked shout, and the boy starts to cry harder, but Makoto tries to block it and keep his anger at the front as he gives the man a hard shove away from them both. He uses the few seconds to check on the woman, actually smiles a little bit when he sees that she’s free and crawling toward her son, but then he’s spun around and, eyes wide, realizes just why she’s able to do so. The man who’d had her has hold of him now and is drawing his fist back.
Everyone stops in surprise when Kisumi bursts into the cul de sac; Makoto gathers his wits first and twists free from the thug’s grasp. “Get them out of here!” he shouts as the world starts to move again. He dodges a grab from the second abductor and manages a second shove to the first.
“Kisumi, go!” Makoto isn’t a fighter by any means. He’s relying sheerly on his size and strength, and these men know what they’re doing. He knows he won’t last long, can’t afford the distraction of being worried about the two they’re trying to save, about Kisumi. “Go!” he shouts again, and he breathes a brief sigh of relief when he finally sees Kisumi dart across behind the first man, hears the sound of retreating footsteps behind the rush in his ears not long after.
“You bastard. You’re going to pay for that!”
Fear grips through Makoto at the ominous threat in the stranger’s tone; it ramps his adrenaline higher and he feels himself shaking with it now. He has nobody to defend now, just himself to keep safe. It’s what he’d wanted, but it also feels like he’s lost focus: that the edge, the need to fight, is no longer as sharp as it’d had been. He doesn’t want to get hurt, really doesn’t want to die, but now that the need to protect has been removed, the fear has the stronger hold on him, and it’s only seconds before his now-clumsy dodges and swings and shoves start to fail him.
Panicking now, Makoto gives a final push to the closest man and then tries to run off, but the shove had only sent the thug a pace or two back and he catches Makoto’s arm with a quick grab and a wickedly playful “Ah ah!” that sends a chill of terror down Makoto’s spine. He releases Makoto, gives him a hard shove, and Makoto stumbles back and right into the waiting hold of the taller of the two thugs. His arms slip under Makoto’s from behind to hold Makoto in place; Makoto flexes and pulls, but before he can break free, the shorter man drives a knee into Makoto’s gut. Tears rise to his eyes from the pain, the abrupt loss of breath, and he can’t even bow forward to try and catch it. Before he can even begin to recover, he takes a punch to his jaw and then another to his chin from the opposite side, and he yelps as his neck snaps hard to the right and the new pain jolts through his head. The thug holding him darkly laughs. “Not so tough now, are you.”
Makoto’s head is ringing, his breaths coming in soft, panicked pants; he wonders if Kisumi had even called the police because where are they if he had? He takes another knee to the gut and he gasps a groan, his body tries to slump but the other man jerks him back again. The one in front of him reaches into his pocket and fear sharpens Makoto again; he does the only thing he can think and drives his head back hard against his captor’s. He feels, more than hears, himself break the man’s nose, feels a wet warmth gush over the back of his head and down his neck even as his ears ring and his vision goes grey from the impact. He tries to twist free, but he just doesn’t have the strength or coordination left to manage it, and all he can do is watch, panting and trembling, as the man in front of him closes in with some kind of blade in his hand.
And then a blur flies in from the right and the man with the knife goes down.
The man holding Makoto swears, his voice thick with his own blood. It makes Makoto sick to hear, sicker to know that he’d done that. Gods his head must be messed if he’s feeling bad for that, he thinks with a sudden urge to giggle, but then he feels a sharp jab to his left lower flank and, this time, when he doubles over, he’s released with a shove that sends him to the ground. Someone shouts his name, a familiar voice, but edged in panic that makes it slightly unfamiliar, too. Legs filters through his addled mind; there seems to be more than there should be, but then his head strikes something hard as he lands, and everything blacks out.
When Makoto blinks his eyes open again, he has no idea where he is. He can tell he’s in a bed, but he knows it’s not his own. It’s far too hard and narrow, and his head is elevated a bit. He turns it to try and figure things out, and his brow furrows when his slightly hazed eyes follow the gray, rubber tubing that seems to come from his arm. He finds himself looking at an active vitals monitor; everything looks good, within normal limits, he thinks, and then his eyes go slightly wide as his brain catches up. Oh. That’s me.
It takes Makoto another few seconds to recall why he’d be in hospital; his head is muzzy, and everything just feels off. Slow. When it comes back to him, he hears the blips on the monitor start to speed, and then faster as he wonders about the woman and boy, about Kisumi.
“..ru! What the hell were you doing?”
Makoto turns his head in the other direction, belatedly realizes by the floor-length muted-taupe curtain that he’s in an emergency department bay.
“That’s my line!” the first voice spits, though it is a bit quieter than before. “You’re supposed to be keeping quiet and out of sight, not drawing attention and showing off your mad skills for some guy you’ve got the hots for!”
“Shut up!” Makoto’s eyes come open quickly from a prolonged blink. He knows that voice, or he thinks he does. The harshness just seems off, and he suddenly remembers having the same thought before, right before that pain had seared through his head. “The only reason I’m involved in any of this is because you kept badgering me to join you! Besides, Makoto’s no fighter and they about had him out! What was I supposed to do? Let them kill him?”
Makoto’s eyes pop open again and he’s briefly irritated with himself that he can’t keep them open before he recalls why it was that he’d opened them again in the first place. His name. In Namiko’s voice. Namiko! He tries to sit up, but the throbbing in his head has him dropping back to the pillow again.
“…supposed to call the cops! Or, at the very least, act like a normal civilian who can’t find their head from their ass!”
“Shut up,” Namiko demands again. “He might hear you!”
“Nah. He was sleeping pretty deep last I checked, plus he cracked his head really good. He won’t remember even if he does hear. And, if he does, just tell him he heard wrong. Why do look so bothered?” the unknown voice asks after a second. There are another couple moments of silence and then, “Oh my god.”
“Oh my god!”
“You like this guy!” Rin cuts Namiko off. “Oh, my god, you do!” A brief silence passes and then Rin speaks again. “Oh my god,” he says yet again, but his entire tone is different this time, soft and sympathetic. “What in the hell were you thinking? You know you can’t!”
That catches Makoto’s attention, above all the questions now swirling through his pounding head, and he tries to sit up again, slower this time.
“…wasn’t,” he hears Namiko say. “It just happened. But I know.” This Rin laughs and it cuts through Makoto’s head like a knife. “What?” Namiko tersely demands.
“Nothing. I just guess you’re human after all.” They’re quiet for a moment and then Rin gently asks, “So what are you going to do?”
Makoto starts from where he’d paused to rest; panic pushes though his sluggish veins and head. That can’t happen. He knows now that Namiko does like him, too; that he hadn’t been wrong before. Makoto won’t let him leave. He at least wants answers: to what happened before, to what he’s learning now and, when he hears Namiko say, “For real this time,” he sets his jaw and finds the lever to lower the safety rail so that he can swing his legs over the edge of the cot.
Namiko laughs, humorlessly, self-depreciating. “That’s what I should do, anyway. But Rin, I—”
“Wait!” Makoto calls out as he paws at the curtain. Namiko’s voice cuts off as he manages it open; he ignores the stares of shock, the way Namiko turns an accusatory look to Rin.
Rin shrugs. “Guy’s tougher than he looks,” he offers in exchange, but Makoto barely hears him. His focus is entirely on Namiko.
“Don’t do that. Namiko-san. Please. Don’t…” Makoto’s head throbs and he feels sick; he tightens his hold on the curtain. “Please don’t go. I don’t know what’s going on, but I don’t care. Namiko-san. I just… want you…” to stay never comes. The dizziness finally becomes too much, and Makoto slumps, the curtain tearing loose with his weight.
“Oi!” Rin’s on feet before Namiko can get off cot and the red head catches him; Makoto tries to push him away, to reach for Namiko.
“Please,” he manages as their eyes meet and then everything fades to black.
Chapter 12: A Different Point of View
“… going to be fine. We just moved him here for his twenty-four-hour observation so that he’d be more comfortable. The scans last night were negative; no skull fracture or brain bleed, and no injury in the abdomen or pelvis. Concussion symptoms are clearing, one by one. I’d be a bit more worried about the lingering dizziness and headache if he was also experiencing memory loss, but he’s recalling everything with clarity, as confirmed by witnesses to the incident and surrounding events. By Tachibana’s own admission, he hadn’t been eating or sleeping well prior to, so that’s likely contributed something to the lingering symptoms and how the incident’s impacted him overall.”
Haru’s eyes slide closed and he sighs silently. His relief upon hearing that Makoto had regained consciousness overrides the accompanying guilt; he knows he’s responsible for the poor self-care Makoto had admitted to.
“…off the schedule through mid-week next week. I know the others will cover for him. I’m glad his prognosis is good, though. He’s good, and we need him. And he’s just a good kid in general.”
Konoe, Haru decides from his conversations with Makoto. The clinic’s medical director. Older guy. Laid back. Haru’s lips curve up slightly. He’s not surprised to hear that Makoto has become a valued member of Konoe’s team already. Makoto is very skilled; as someone who’s been through PT more than once and for myriad reasons, he knows. And he’s glad that the man appreciates Makoto in general, too.
The voices move down the hall and, as they fade, Haru slips out from the shorter utility hall in which he’d been waiting, and then into Makoto’s room. He’s good and we need him, Konoe had said and, as Haru gazes down at the sleeping man, he silently answers Konoe’s statement with one of his own. He is, Sensei. And you’re not the only one.
Without a sound, Haru comes further into the room to take the chair from beneath the window and bring it to the bedside. He’s not usually one for such sentimental thoughts. Life and personal circumstances have hardened him against them. But he doesn’t regret or retract it either. As frightening as he’ll admit that it is, he also thinks that it’s good to feel again.
Truth told, his initial encounter with Makoto had completely slipped his mind until Makoto had turned up at his door a couple of weeks later. The memory of the tall, broad stranger that had stared after him on the temple steps had come back with clarity then, but his suspicion had quickly given way to amusement as he’d witnessed the man’s awkwardness and bumbling. And, when Makoto had gotten over himself and had started working, Haru actually hadn’t minded it too much. Makoto hadn’t filled the space with unnecessary words, or nervous energy, like his predecessor, and the way he was with his hands… A shiver of pleasure runs through Haru, unbidden, and then he rolls his eyes at himself and pulls his mind back on track. He hadn’t even been thinking about that at that point; knows that it’s just his more recent memories overlapping the older.
At first, Haru had just been mildly annoyed by the intrusion, necessary as he’d known it was. It hadn’t been specific to Makoto. He’d felt that way about Nishimura, too. But by the time the appointment had come to an end, that irritation had largely dissipated, even with Makoto having pushed him into something outside the house twice. Though he’d surprised himself with the response he’d given when Makoto had asked for his trust.
Trust is even rarer from him than sentiment.
Two days later, when Haru had seen the beach, had seen Makoto in the water, he’d known that he’d done well to give it, as spontaneous as that instinct had been. Makoto belonged there, in the surf, sun and sand. The water accepted him, and that had definitely caught Haru’s attention, more than the lengths Makoto had gone to so that he could get the care he needed, more than learning that Makoto was an Iwatobi native. However, finding out that Makoto had known his grandmother had definitely piqued his interest the most. Haru has no memory of the woman outside of photos. All he’d known before talking to Makoto had been what he’d been told: that she was a good woman who loved her children and grandson. His father’s transfer to the States just before he’d turned three had made it impossible to really foster any sort of relationship with her, and when they’d come back for her funeral the year before he’d returned to live in Japan, it had literally been that of a stranger’s.
Haru hadn’t been sure how he’d felt that day on the beach, hearing someone he didn’t know talk about his own blood with such affection. Overall, however, he’d been reluctantly intrigued, and he’d instructed Rin to investigate this Tachibana Makoto. The only thing that had turned up had been a note on his high school record of him (and some other boys!) trespassing into another school’s pool to swim, and all that had done was add to his credibility in Haru’s eyes. Makoto had seemed too good to be true, yet he’d found himself opening up a bit more as each session had passed. Eventually, even he couldn’t believe the lie anymore that he was only tolerating Makoto for his knowledge of the local waters and his grandmother’s home. The defensive walls Haru so stringently kept in place would crumble as soon as they were together, and the way Makoto’s expression would light when Haru would take the proverbial hand and let Makoto tug him over the rubble: it was as if Haru had been the one the one giving something to him. It had made Haru feel things that he hadn’t thought he’d feel again; had made him eager to see where Makoto would pull him to next.
He’d fallen fast, and before he’d realized it.
Haru should have stopped it then. He knows that, knew even then that the line of propriety that Makoto was reluctant to even flirt with because of his professional code was flimsy reasoning to allow things to go on. But he’d let it continue, because every smile and laugh, every tilt of Makoto’s head and shade of his eyes; every time Makoto would light up when Haru would give something of himself—like Haru had just handed him something beautiful and precious—had made him feel, had made him want, more, both from Makoto, and to give him. Makoto understood, could read, him so naturally that it should have been unsettling, but it wasn’t. It was intriguing. Comforting. He felt wanted and safe, and eventually, Haru had realized that he’d never felt as drawn to someone before. And he knows that he should have stopped things then, too, but he hadn’t, because Makoto is almost painfully easy to read, and how could he do that to this good, handsome man who could have had anyone in the world, but who’d fallen for him?
And then that storm had rolled in and, with it, his safety net had been blown away.
It wasn’t until the following Saturday that Haru had consciously realized the impact of Konoe’s text. The day of the storm, his focus had been on Makoto: at first, on the careful confession Makoto had given and how frighteningly happy it had made him, and then later, on trying to comfort Makoto through the storm. A frown forms between Haru’s brows and he drops his gaze from the bed to his hands. He hates himself the most when he thinks about how not even learning about Koji had triggered any warning that he really needed to stop things, but it hadn’t. Makoto wanted him, enough that he’d finally disregarded that line, as shyly offered and as strictly verbal as it’d been; finally, after years of pain and then emptiness, life had given Haru something positive, someone wonderful again, and the only thing he’d thought about Konoe’s text that day was that, in just nine more, he’d be able to truly have it.
That last Saturday on the beach, Haru hadn’t been sure if Makoto would take the kiss he’d offered. Even knowing that they were free from the restrictions of their patient-provider relationship, Makoto had hovered on that line of propriety, but to Haru’s delight, he’d responded to the nudge, and that kiss had been the end of it for both of them. Haru’s lips pressed. It had been another point along the path to this hospital room where he should have stepped back, but he hadn’t. It was as if every bit of his training, of his common sense, had been swept away in those ten weeks, or hell, maybe he’d just been so tired of existing instead of living that, on some level, he hadn’t cared. Makoto had wanted it too; the way he’d kissed and touched Haru at first, like it was some dream, too good to be true… gods, it had made Haru want even more, and when that restraint had finally snapped—Haru shivers again as he recalls how Makoto had dragged him up and against him like he’d been nothing, how those large hands had felt on his body, how the impressive line of Makoto’s cock had felt against his.
A different warmth rises through Haru’s system when he thinks about how Makoto had kissed and held him after. So much had passed between them in that kiss, yet it had also been so profoundly simple: just the culmination of two lovers enjoying each other on a lazy morning on their own (mostly!) private beach. It should have been a warning, but even then, Haru hadn’t seen it coming. He’d been completely blind to the trap he’d fallen into until later, at home, when he’d walked into the changing room to give Makoto his towel. Only then, when he’d seen Makoto’s things scattered about like he belonged there, like it was his home, too, had Haru realized what he’d done. That morning, that moment, had summed up everything he’d ever wanted and Haru had let himself fall into the fantasy that he could have it: that happiness and love, the quiet, normal life with a good man at his side that he’d always craved could be his. He’d let himself forget that, because of his past, those things weren’t meant for him now—that they might not ever be.
Chapter 13: Hope
Haru isn’t proud of how he’d run from Makoto after he’d learned of his mistake. The realization of it had made him ill. He’d not been able to eat, and the shower had provided him no respite. After, the sight of Makoto puttering around at his sink had put another crack in his heart. For the first time in a very long time, he’d had no idea what to do, and when, on their walk, Makoto had asked him to view the fireworks with him, it had been the last straw. He’d panicked. He’d run home, had shoved a bunch of clothes into a bag and had taken the train to Tottori, but he hadn’t even been able to look at the water without being riddled with guilt and regret, never mind the fact that he’d not grabbed a single pair of his jammers. The next day, he’d headed inland and had ended up in Asago where he’d spent the next week losing himself in the mountains and myriad ruins. It hadn’t been until three days ago when his head had finally been on a bit straighter and he’d wondered why he’d not heard from Rin that he’d realized he’d left his phone.
The trip back to Iwatobi had been crowded and hot with the last-minute masses traveling for Obon. By the time he’d gotten back to the village, the last thing he’d wanted had been to deal with even more people, so he’d skirted around everything by cutting through some of the outlying fields and subdivisions. He’d just about cleared the town entirely when he’d heard the woman’s yell, and by the time he’d found her… Haru’s gut clenches when he recalls the predicament Makoto had been in.
From that point forward, the only thing that had mattered had been saving Makoto. Truth told, Haru is lucky that he didn’t reinjure his shoulder, or worse, between the tackle he’d made when he’d rushed in and the short fight after. And he’d not even been able to tell the police which way the perps had run when the patrolmen had finally showed up a few minutes later. His sole focus had been Makoto—though, when he’d found himself in an ED bay after, with Rin breathing down his neck, he’d wished he’d been paying a little more attention. Haru sighs to himself, rubs the corners of his eyes with a hand. That said, he supposes he’d had it coming, between his vanishing act and the mess he’d ended up in—not that he’s going to tell Rin that.
An overhead announcement informs the facility that visiting hours will start in five minutes. Haru drops his hand from his eyes and stands, moves closer to the bedside, lightly brushes his fingers through Makoto’s bangs. “I don’t know how this will work yet, but I meant what I told Rin. I couldn’t stay away from you, even though I should. So I’ll figure it out, because I want you in my life, too,” he murmurs before bending down to lightly kiss Makoto’s forehead.
Haru’s stomach flips at the mumbled call; Makoto’s eyes open as he eases back. “Mm,” he says with a slight nod, and Makoto smiles, sleepy and sweet.
“I did.” He lets a small smile of his own show. “I couldn’t leave. You just need too much looking after.”
Makoto chuckles softly. “Mm. ‘parently so.” His eyes slide shut and Haru lightly brushes through his bangs again.
“Sleep,” he says softly, but before he can bring his hand away, Makoto has taken it.
“Will you still be here?” Haru’s heart aches at how small the question sounds; he wonders how much of it is fear that he won’t be and how much of it is Makoto’s condition.
“In Iwatobi, yes. Come and see me when they let you go home. I’ll tell you what I can then.” Makoto’s grip tightens; Haru can see him fighting to open his eyes. “Sleep,” he murmurs again. “I’ll be there. I promise.” He leans down, seals it with a kiss brushed to Makoto’s lips, and Makoto lets his hand go. With a light touch to the back of Makoto’s, Haru turns to step over to the door—and then mentally curses when someone opens it.
“Oh! Who are you?”
They speak over each other, and then Haru’s lips press together slightly in annoyance. He doesn’t regret the few minutes with Makoto, but he really isn’t in the mood for this. “A friend,” he replies coolly, but the newcomer doesn’t move. Instead, he narrows his eyes, takes in his appearance.
“Ah. Namiko-san.” It surprises Haru, but he doesn’t show it; he simply nods, then goes to pass as the man finally steps to the side. “Impressive,” the stranger murmurs as he’s just about by him, and it’s just off enough that Haru pauses and looks back.
“Ah, just thinking aloud. My apologies. Though it really is, you know,” he continues after half a beat, and Haru tenses. “That you could call yourself his friend after what you did.”
The man’s tone is light, his eyes close in a smile; it all seems very polite, except that it isn’t. Haru’s fingers twitch in minutely toward his palms. He deserves it, he knows that, but it doesn’t mean he’s pleased to hear it. Especially from someone who doesn’t know him, though it’s obvious that he does Makoto. “And who are you?” he asks coolly in turn.
“Oh! Apologies again; that was rude of me. I’m Shigino Kisumi.”
Ah, Haru thinks flatly. The best friend. But it’s Makoto’s best friend, since childhood, Haru knows. He supposes he should try and be civil.
“Why are you here?” Or maybe not. Shigino has stopped feigning both smile and tone now; his eyes are cool, his voice even more so, and the accusation in both puts Haru even more on the defensive. “You have no idea how you hurt him; of the damage you’ve done.”
“I do,” Haru says tautly, and he tenses further when Shigino actually tuts at him. “And I’m not doing this here. Makoto needs his sleep.” He steps forward, determined to push by Shigino if he has to, but Shigino moves to the side at the last minute to let him out.
“You can’t possibly,” Shigino continues as he follows Haru out, and Haru stops, but doesn’t turn around.
“If you mean because of Koji, Makoto told me about all of that.” There’s a sharp intake of breath behind him, and Haru’s fingers curve into his palms again.
“And you still—”
“I had my reasons.” Haru doesn’t hesitate in cutting him off. He knows he screwed up, has potentially messed up the best thing to happen in his life in an age, if not ever, but he’s not going to let someone who doesn’t have a clue about him and what he’s been through make him feel worse about it, Makoto’s best friend or not.
“Is that why you came back? To give them?”
Haru rolls his eyes. Shigino’s persistence is more than a little annoying, and he’s tempted to just walk away anyway, but he knows he has to maintain at least a basic level of politeness. In any other circumstance, Haru wouldn’t care, but he’s also aware that he’s nowhere near clear of the mess he’d made yet, and the last thing he needs is to stack the deck further against himself, so he turns around. “No. I came back for him. Not because I owe explanations, or because he deserves them. I do, and he does, but I didn’t have to come back to Iwatobi for that. I came back because I know I messed up, and I hurt him, and he deserves to hear my apology and my reasons in person. And hopefully, at the end of it, he’ll forgive me, and we can work through it, because I care about him very much.” Haru can feel the heat rise in his cheeks as he talks, and he’s mortified, baring so much of himself to a total stranger, but regardless as to which way things go with Makoto, he supposes that it’s penance of sorts. That said, he’s not going to give anything more, but it doesn’t look as if he’ll have to. He’s surprised Shigino. He can see it in his eyes, but then his expression softens, and he nods.
“Fair enough,” he says simply and then he turns to go back into Makoto’s room. Haru’s shoulders relax, a combination of things, but mostly relief that that bit of unpleasantness is over. All he can do now is wait until his conversation with Makoto. His stomach twists slightly as he heads down the hall. If things don’t work out, he’ll have gotten what he deserves, but he hopes with all he has that it does.
Makoto’s head turns toward the door when he hears it open; he’s still drowsy, but he feels more alert as well, even in just those few minutes that have passed since Namiko left. It’s a good sign, he knows. While he’s not a psychologist, Makoto has seen the impact that positive news has had on his own patients and he knows that those moments with Namiko have helped. “Kisumi!” he greets as his friend steps in and, even more alert, he feels for the control that will allow him to lift the head of the bed. “Damn,” he mutters under his breath and he turns his eyes away from his friend to properly look for it. Kisumi laughs at him and the bit of worry that had gripped his heart lightened. If he’s hurt, it can’t be too badly, Makoto thinks. Then again, it is Kisumi, who has the propensity to make light even of things he really shouldn’t. “Ah!” he exclaims once he’s found the device and then he turns his attention back to his friend as he uses it. “How are you?”
Kisumi laughs again, but it’s softer this time, and he lightly shakes his head. “That’s my line, you know,” he chastises as he comes up to the edge of the bed. “But I’m fine. Not a scratch. Matsui-san and Nori-chan are doing fine, too,” he adds, knowing what Makoto’s next question will be, but then he chuckles sheepishly when all he gets is a look of confusion instead. “The woman and boy you saved,” he explains, and Makoto lights up, only to color slightly and shake his head.
“You got them out of there, Kisumi.”
“Only because you decided to follow them off in the first place, Makoto. Don’t downplay what you did,” he urges softly. “Not this time. Please?” Kisumi knows very well what Makoto’s fears are and can’t even begin to imagine what he’d gone through once he didn’t have protecting the Matsuis to focus on.
Makoto’s color deepens slightly but, after a second, he gives a small nod. “I’m just glad they’re alright. That you all are. The men who… did they get them?” he asks another second or two later, and his eyes fall shut with Kisumi’s quiet no. He knows he’d done the best that he could, that he’s lucky he didn’t come out of it with worse, but he can’t help but feel that he’s failed a bit, too.
Makoto’s lips curve up just slightly at the gentle warning in Kisumi’s voice. “I know.”
“Good.” Kisumi comes around the bed to take the chair that Makoto assumes Namiko had pulled close to him. His smile widens at the thought.
“Namiko-san came back,” he tells his friend, finally lifting his gaze again.
“I know.” Kisumi smiles slightly at Makoto’s surprised expression. “We ran into each other on his way out, and we talked for a bit. Why do you look so worried?” Kisumi asks with tilt of his head and a smile. “I was polite!”
Makoto’s lips curve up wanly. “You’re always polite, Kisumi. Most especially when you’re being rude,” he points out, and Kisumi tips his head in the opposite direction, feigning thought.
“Fine, fine,” he says at the gentle warning in Makoto’s tone. “I asked him what he was doing here. He said he came back for you. That he knows he messed up and that he hopes the two of you can work past it. Are you going to hear him out?” he asks after a moment or two, though he already knows the answer; he can see it in Makoto’s eyes.
Makoto’s heart feels light, and he can’t stop smiling. “Mm.”
“Do you really think he’ll still be around?”
That does make his smile fade, but he promptly nods again even as his fingers lightly grip the blanket; he sees Kisumi’s brow arch, knows he’s caught the nervous tic. His face warms, but he holds Kisumi’s gaze all the same. “I do. He promised.”
“Koji made promises, too.”
“Makoto! I just want you to be sure about this,” Kisumi continues. “You were so hurt and low after what happened with Koji; you’re just now really past it, and Namiko’s already hurt you just as badly. You barely know him compared to how long you knew Koji; why are you willing to take the risk?”
Kisumi’s words cut, and Makoto’s jaw drops as hurt and disbelief rush through him. “Are you saying I should have given Koji that final chance after what he’d said and done?” he asks once he’s able to string his words together, voice slightly raspy, and Kisumi’s first no comes before he’s even finished asking.
“No!” Kisumi repeats, looking horrified himself that he’d been taken that way, and Makoto promptly feels bad for even thinking it. “Never. I’d never think that, Makoto! I’m just trying to understand. I don’t want you hurt like that ever again, you know?”
“I know. I can’t explain it really,” Makoto continues after a pause. “The why. I just know that I felt more with Namiko-san in those ten weeks, in the one time we were together, than I ever did with Koji. I know that going to hear him out is the right thing to do, and I absolutely know that he’ll be there.” They hold gazes for a moment, both of them steady, and then Kisumi smiles softly; gives a nod.
“Alright, Makoto. Fair enough. And you know I’ll be here whichever way it goes.”
Chapter 14: Rin
By the time Makoto’s twenty-four-hour observation is over, the hospital decides that it’s too late to discharge him. He’s beside himself. He just wants his own shower, his own bed, his own space, but the hospital was at least generous enough to let Kisumi come in after visiting hours so that he could have his glasses, and his own bathroom kit and clothing. He’s been told absolutely no LCD monitors until he’s completely clear of concussion symptoms for seventy-two hours, but he’s doing well enough that he can watch TV, so long as nothing worsens. It’s small consolation. The cable selection in the hospital sucks, so he turns it off within minutes. A nurse walks in to check his vitals just as he looses a very aggravated sigh and her comment about how providers are always the worst patients brings heat to his cheeks and makes him feel bad.
Makoto has eaten, has showered, and has packed up what little Kisumi had brought him the evening before in the generic plastic bag he'd been given by the time the neurologist rounds the next morning,. The doctor laughs at him good naturedly and then does his discharge evaluation; Makoto sighs in relief when he’s finally on his way. The fresh air feels so good when he steps outside, and he’s so glad that they’d forgone the traditional wheelchair ride out; he makes a mental note to thank the neurologist especially for that.
The walk back to his apartment is a short one, and the clinic shares a campus with the hospital so, by now, Makoto knows it by rote. It isn’t until he’s a few feet in front of his stairwell that he really checks back in, and he grins a bit as he heads up, just really glad to be out and home. Something catches his eye when he reaches the landing and turn, and he pauses to take a proper glance—and then freezes when he realizes it’s a person. It isn’t anyone he knows or recalls seeing around Iwatobi before. Something pricks at him, like he should know this man, but he can’t place him, and he’s more than a little freaked out that he’d not only been following him up to his door, but that he’d done so without a sound. “Can I help you?” he decides upon after a few seconds’ debate on whether to ask or to just bolt for his door.
“Tch. Fine way to greet the guy who saved you from faceplanting on the floor.” Makoto’s jaw drops slightly at the response, and the redhead rolls his eyes. “Tone aside, you’ve got nervous written all over you. Though I suppose I’ll forgive. You went through some shit and were more than a bit out of it the first time we met. A couple nights ago? In the ED?” the man prods when Makoto simply stares, and then it comes back to him: the curtain tearing. Someone catching him as he fell. A flash of red before he passed out.
“With Namiko-san,” Makoto says slowly. “You were the one I heard him talking with that night.” Makoto gives the redhead a shallow bow, and a grateful, “Thank you.” He tips his head slightly after a second. “Though that still doesn’t explain why you’re here,” he says with a light, puzzled smile.
“Kaito sent me.” Makoto’s stomach clenches slightly; something must show on his face, because the redhead’s expression changes. He doesn’t roll his eyes this time, his features just soften around the edges. “Relax, Tachibana. He’s still around and he’s fine. He sent me to get you. He knew you’d want to see him right away, figured you weren’t cleared for driving just yet and didn’t want you to make the walk out.” Makoto warms with the concern, it rising to his cheeks, and the man does roll his eyes at that. “Yeah, he can be a real sweetheart when he wants to be.”
Makoto’s brow arches. “That was a bit sarcastic.”
“It was meant to be. We’ve been friends forever and that guy’s never shown a soft side. Ahh, relax,” the redhead drawls when Makoto’s second brow joins the first. “I’m just kidding. Kaito’s good.”
Makoto doesn’t know what to make of this man. He’s partly worried about trusting him, even as the snippets of conversation he’d overheard the other night start to come back, even as he wants to trust him because he really wants to go see Namiko. “He is, yes,” he decides upon with a wan smile, and then, “I’m sorry; I didn’t catch your name?”
“Didn’t offer it,” the guy says with a shrug, but then he smiles a bit. “Matsuoka Rin. And here.” He pulls a slightly crumpled envelope from the back pocket of his jeans and hands it to Makoto.
Makoto takes it with a curious look and then opens it.
Makoto, Rin’s a pain in the ass, but he’s also an okay guy and you can trust him. Namiko.
“What? He said something rude, didn’t he!”
Makoto grins. “Actually, he told me I could trust you.”
“Yeah, but that wasn’t all, was it? Tch, like I care,” Matsuoka declares with a petulant wave of his hand when Makoto just smiles wider, and Makoto can’t help but laugh again.
“Just give me a second to run this bag in, and I’ll be ready.”
“Just like that? I could have forged that, you know.”
Makoto chuckles softly and shakes his head. “No, it’s from him. I recognize Namiko-san’s writing and signature from his work, Matsuoka-san.”
“Rin. You can call me Rin,” he explains when Makoto looks at him in question. You know, since you and Kaito are so cozy and stuff.” Makoto blushes at the way Rin emphasizes cozy and Rin leers, then he laughs and shoos him up the steps. “I’m in the black NSX out front when you’re done.”
Makoto stares after Rin bemusedly as he goes down the stairs. He seems an odd match for Namiko, and he’s curious as to how the friendship came about, on top of everything else. As Rin disappears around the corner, Makoto finishes the trek up the stairs; in less than two minutes, he’s folding himself into Rin’s vehicle.
“Sorry,” Rin offers with a bit of a smirk. “This baby’s not exactly made for giants.”
Makoto gives a light laugh with no amusement behind it, his default when people tease about his size, and he focuses on his seatbelt. “So, you’ve known Namiko-san for a while then?” he asks as Rin pulls into the traffic lane.
“Yeah. Since early university. That’s why this whole mess is so freaking unbelievable. No offense,” he apologizes offhandedly, misunderstanding Makoto’s slight gape. “But yeah, he’s never done anything so reckless. And then, when he bolted…”
“Bolted?” Makoto repeats as Rin trails off, and Rin nods.
“Yeah. Like, completely gone. Total radio silence. I mean he's not chatty by any means, but texts, Line, calls… I wasn’t getting anything from him. After three days of it, I was freaked the fuck out, so I came looking for him. I tell you what, it’s like trying to find a goddamned cat when they don't want you to. But when I saw he’d left all his art stuff, I knew he'd be back eventually, so I just hung out.”
Makoto’s chest aches slightly with Rin’s revelation. It hurts to think that Namiko had been so frightened because of him, and the short trip already seems to be taking forever for as badly as he wants to see him, to find out why, and why Namiko had decided to come back. To find out if he was staying. The ache intensifies with that thought, but Rin’s last distracts him from it. “Wait; you broke into Namiko-san’s house?”
Rin gives him a startled look at the incredulous blurt, “No!” he hotly protests. “I have the spare key!”
“Oh.” Makoto can feel Rin’s sidelong look, can feel his cheeks warm with Rin’s knowing snicker.
“Don’t worry. It’s not like that. Besides, I’ve got somebody.”
“I wasn’t,” Makoto protests, face heating further.
Rin openly laughs this time. “Right. You really have it bad for him, don’t you,” he observes softly as he pulls into the lot at the base of the mountain. “I’m glad.” Makoto looks over at Rin, surprised by the warmth in his tone. “I still think it’s reckless. He’s putting a lot on the line, choosing to stay like he is. But Kaito’s been through some shit, too, and if anyone deserves a good guy whose head over heels for him, he does.” Makoto’s lips part, but before he can utter a word, Rin throws up his hand. “Don’t. I shouldn’t have said all I did. But telling you that I’ll kick your ass if you make him regret taking the risk isn’t quite as out of the blue now, is it.”
Rin’s burgeoning smirk fades to a slight upturn of lips with Makoto’s prompt, and vehement, response. “You don’t even know what he’s gonna tell you, yet. How can you say for certain?”
Makoto thinks about what Kisumi had told him when he’d comforted him the night of the festival, about risk, about someone, someday, finding him worth it. He smiles. He’s confused about…well, pretty much everything right now, to be honest. Except for this. “Whatever this risk is, Namiko-san decided that being with me is more important. He trusts in me enough to believe I’ll be able to handle it, and he stayed. For me. I don’t know what he’s going to say, and I am anxious about it. But we got to know each other pretty well those ten weeks, Rin. And if it was truly something horrid, or something Namiko-san didn’t think I’d be able to get past, I trust him enough to know that he would have stayed away. He wouldn’t have come back just to hurt me again. So yes. I am certain.”
Rin studies him for a moment and then grins warmly and nods. “Good answer.” He pops open his door. “C’mon. Let’s go.”
The short walk up to Namiko’s is made in silence. Makoto is glad for it. Rin’s unique personality and the non-stop conversation have worn him out a bit, which tells him he’s still got a bit of recovering to do; he’s a talker himself and he’s dealt with his fair share of peculiar individuals. Plus, while he’d meant what he’d said to Rin, his mind is occupied with whatever it might be that Namiko is going to tell him.
Rin steps ahead of him to knock when they reached the house. Namiko answers right away, eyes seeking Makoto’s. Makoto smiles; a slight one curves up Namiko’s lips as his eyes briefly soften, though they cool and narrow as he shifts his gaze to Rin. “Oi, what did you say to him?”
“Nothing!” Rin sputters, but then, when Namiko doesn’t look away, he rolls his eyes. “Okay, fine. I might have gone on a bit, needled him once or twice. But I couldn’t help it. You were right. The guy reads like a book.”
Rin laughs when the two talk over each other. “Sorry, sorry. My bad.” A shit-eating grin slowly forms. “Refreshingly open was how you put it, I think,” he drawls to Namiko.
“Rin, leave. Now.”
“Tch. You really aren’t any fun, you know,” Rin complains petulantly. “Fine. I’m going.”
Makoto sighs quietly in relief, but then calls to him just after Rin turns away. “Thank you for bringing me out,” he offers sincerely when Rin pauses.
Rin smiles over his shoulder, a genuine one, and he nods. “No problem.”
Chapter 15: Answers
“Come in, Makoto.”
Makoto turns from where he'd been watching Rin. He gives a nod and smile with his “mm,” and he excuses himself past Namiko. He doesn't quite know what to do once he's in the genkan. He remembers Namiko’s light touches and kiss before he'd left him in the hospital; how they’d reassured him that what they’d shared together was real, that they were. He recalls what Kisumi had told him after from when Kisumi and Namiko had talked. But there's so much hanging between them. He has so many questions and there’s so much he doesn't know that, now that they're alone, he feels a bit awkward and overwhelmed with it all.
Haru sees Makoto trepidation and sorrow prickles through him. It's too be expected, and it’s what he feels he deserves but, he reminds himself, at least Makoto came to hear him out. Not that he'd really thought he wouldn't, but it’s at least one positive in this sea of uncertainty that’s currently surrounding them both. “Makoto.”
“Go sit down,” Namiko encourages with a nod toward the couch and a light touch to Makoto's arm. “I'll be in with some tea in a minute, and we'll talk.”
“Alright. Thank you, Namiko-san.”
“Kaito,” Haru pauses to correct, and he can’t help but smile a bit when Makoto’s eyes widen as pleasure lights them. He really is so easy to please, to make happy; another thing that draws Haru to him. There is no deceit or subterfuge to this man, just goodness. The only complexity Makoto seems to have is whatever Haru has sensed he’s hidden with his smile and, if he has to guess, Haru figures he’d likely learned most of that the day of the storm.
“Kaito,” Makoto amends with a nod, happiness warming through him and softening his voice. It’s odd to say, after so long, but he likes how it feels on his tongue. Unbidden, his eyes drop to Kaito’s mouth, though they quickly shift back to Kaito’s eyes when he realizes. A gentle smirk lies there along with a light color to Kaito’s cheeks. “Uhm… I’m gonna go sit down now,” Makoto says with a sheepish chuckle and rub to his jaw.
“Mm,” is all Haru replies with but, once his back is turned, he smiles. That said, he doesn’t allow himself to give into the hope that wants to rush him. He can’t. Not until everything is out in the open; as much as he can give, anyway. Not until he sees if his instinct was right and that Makoto will be alright with it. It’s not let him down in the past, but Haru’s never trusted his heart to it before. And there’s always a first time for everything.
“Oh!” Haru looks over his shoulder when he hears the exclamation. “I’m sorry, Kaito, but I should pass on the tea.” Makoto gives an apologetic smile. “I just remembered, no caffeine until I'm clear of any concussion symptoms for seventy-two hours.”
Haru nods, ignoring his mind as it briefly taunts him with the question of whether or not he'll ever get to hear his true name from those lips. He can’t linger on that, either. “I figured, so I’m fixing an herbal. I’ve been concussed before,” he answers before Makoto can ask.
Sympathy and curiosity rise together, and Makoto diverts from the sofa to lean against the short kitchen wall instead. “From when you were shot?” It seems a fair place to start, even though he knows it could have been from anything.
Haru shakes his head. “No, a different work injury.” Internally, he tenses at the silence that follows, even though he tells himself that it’s stupid, that what will be will be. The conversation had to start somewhere and it’s as good a lead-in as any, he supposes.
“Tough job, being a children's illustrator.”
Haru looks over his shoulder again at the comment. Makoto is smiling, trying to make light, but his eyes tell of his curiosity and concern, his hurt, and Haru's expression gentles. “Go sit,” he urges again. “I'm just about done.”
“Mm.” Makoto straightens from the wall but he doesn’t move right away; he stands, watching Kaito, trying to let go of everything he’s feeling, the positive and the negative, but he gives it up with a quiet sigh after a moment and goes in to sit. He’s come a fair way in managing his emotions. He’s had to with what he’s seen career-wise. But today, it’s all personal, and like trying to stop the tide.
Kaito comes in just a minute later; Makoto thanks him as he’s handed the tea and then he can’t help but smile.
“I was just reminded of the last time we were like this.”
“The storm,” Haru reminisces as he sits, and Makoto nods.
“Mm.” Makoto takes a careful swallow of the tea, licks his lower lip.
“Including the anxiousness.” It isn’t a question, just a gentle statement of fact. Makoto’s cheeks warm again and he gives another nod.
“Don’t feel badly about that. I hurt you and left, only happened back into your life by circumstance, and now, with whatever you overheard in the ED and with whatever Rin’s said, I’m sure you have no clue what’s going on and what I’m going to say.”
They hold gazes for a moment, and then Makoto gives a small, sort of helpless smile and nods. “Mm. But I believe in you, Kaito,” he rushes to say, wanting Kaito to know, to try and reassure him through whatever anxiety Makoto knows he’s feeling, too. “It may have only been circumstance that brought you back when it did, but after, you decided to stay. That’s enough. Whatever everything else is, I’d like to think that we’ll work through it.”
“Makoto.” Haru doesn’t know what he’s done to deserve this man, his honesty and his trust, but if Makoto is right and they do weather this—and god, Haru hopes that he is—he vows he will never make Makoto regret it. “Thank you,” he softly says, eyes focused on his cup. He makes himself take a drink, and then he sets it down, draws his hands into his lap. “I’m a detective,” he decides to begin. There’s no point beating around it now that it’s come down to it. “For your own protection I will not tell you for whom. And there will be other things I can’t tell you, not because I don’t want to, but because, as much as I want this to work between us, I want to keep you safe, more. Can you accept that?”
Makoto’s eyes widen with the pronouncement, but then his lips press. After that first second of surprise, he finds that he’s not, especially not after the comment Kaito had made about his work injuries. As for the rest… He gives a slight nod, and then a bit of a laugh. “How can I tell you no after how you put it, Kaito?”
Makoto sobers, instinctively knowing what Kaito wants. “I’m curious, of course I am. But I can deal with that. I want this to work between us too,” he says softly, honestly, as he briefly covers Kaito’s hand with his own. “I’m grateful that you trust me enough to tell me what you can. Go on, please, Kaito.”
Haru smiles a bit and nods, flipping his hand over to briefly squeeze Makoto’s in thanks. “Alright. Right now, I’m not actively working. I’m on sabbatical.”
“For your injury?”
Haru gives a single shake of his head. “I’ve recovered enough that I could have gone back to desk work. But, I took the shot taking in someone important to a group trying to align themselves with the Imakaya-kai.”
“Yakuza,” Makoto breathes, face paling a bit as his stomach flips this time. He studies Kaito’s eyes for a few seconds and then, softly, “You’re in a protection program.” He gives a very slight smile when he sees Kaito’s surprise. “Your reclusiveness, the ruse of an illustrator, your refusal to say who you’re working for: it’s the only thing that makes sense.”
Haru nods, waits for the next, obvious question, makes himself hold Makoto’s eyes even when his stomach twists sharply as he sees it dawn.
“Which means that Namiko Kaito isn’t your real name.”
“No,” he quietly confirms. “And that’s another thing that I can’t, I won’t, give you.”
“For my protection.”
Haru looks up from where his gaze had finally fallen to his cup in the silence. “Mm. But that’s the only reason why, Makoto. I swear it.”
“Kaito! I really wish you would focus some of that concern on yourself, please!” Haru’s eyes widen at Makoto’s blurt. It’s completely unexpected and yet, he realizes, it isn’t, not from Makoto, who’s taken such care with him since day one, who—despite everything—still cares for him far more than he deserves. “Honestly, and you tell me I’m the one who needs such looking after!”
Haru’s lips curve up. “You do,” he says gently. “I just told you we’ve been living a lie the whole time we’ve known each other. You have no idea who I really am or what I’ve done, but you’re still here, looking at me like I’ve given you the world.”
Heat rushes to Makoto’s face, but more from being called out about how obvious his feelings are than over his recklessness. “You did,” he counters. “You stayed for me. You didn’t have to do that. And you didn’t have to tell me anything, but you are, and everything you do tell me is just one more piece that one more person knows; one more thing that puts you in just a bit more danger.” He smiles a bit. “I understand what Rin meant now, and he was right. It is reckless and risky, you staying, you wanting to be with me with how things are. But you don’t care. Even though you really should.” He gives a soft, self-depreciating laugh then. “And what does it say about me that I can’t even bring myself to do the right thing and get up and walk right now, so that you stop it?”
“That you feel the same as I do.” Makoto looks up at him, head tilting slightly. “That this is right, you and me. More than anything’s ever been.”
Makoto’s eyes soften and he gives a single nod. “Mm.” He can’t deny it. Despite everything, the questions left unanswered, the voice in his head telling him that Kaito’s trained and that even this could be a lie, in his heart and soul he feels that it’s true. He just needs his head to shut up, to let him believe it.
Haru should be relieved by Makoto’s response, but he feels like he’s still holding his breath. Makoto isn’t a liar, so Haru trusts that he thinks the same, but it’s as if he’s struggling to really believe. Haru can’t blame him, but he can’t assuage his doubt either, not until he knows what’s holding Makoto back. So when, after parting his lips, Makoto just licks the lower and then closes his mouth again, Haru reaches over, lightly touches his arm. “What is it?” he asks evenly once he’s drawn Makoto’s gaze. “Ask. If I can’t answer, I’ll tell you.”
Makoto knows he’s been caught when he feels Kaito’s touch; he gives a small smile as he takes Kaito’s hand again, brings them down to rest between them on the couch. “It feels that way for me, too,” he elaborates. His smile widens a bit. “I told Kisumi I’ve felt more with you in the time we’ve known each other than I ever did with Koji.”
That surprises Haru. he knows he’d been standoffish at the start, and still doesn’t feel like he’d given a lot beyond giving into his attraction. But the way Makoto is looking at him, he can’t help but believe it, and he wonders again about this Koji, how he’d been so blind to what he’d had in Makoto, how he could have treated him so callously. “But?” he gently nudges when another few moments of silence pass, because he can also see that there is one.
Makoto nods. “But I don’t understand. You’ve obviously known all along that you couldn’t give one hundred percent of yourself, and shouldn’t give any. So why? Why did you encourage me instead of shutting things down? Why did you let things go so far, especially that Saturday? You had to know how I felt about you. I mean, Rin wasn’t wrong.”
“There are far worse things to be than open with your feelings, Makoto,” Haru says quietly. “As for why, I’ll be honest. It was just a diversion at first. Not in that way,” he hurries to add when he sees the hurt in Makoto’s eyes. “I wasn’t toying with you. But you were a curiosity to me. You’re a good man, Makoto, kindhearted and pure. It was refreshing after what I’ve been exposed to.” He smirks a bit then. “Besides, have you seen yourself?”
Haru huffs a laugh at the stammered exclamation and the accompanying blush, and then he gives an unapologetic shrug before sobering. “You’re beautiful, inside and out. You made me feel, for the first time in a very long while. Before I knew it, it was more than just a passing interest, so much more, and when I did realize it, I was already in over my head. I knew I should stop it, especially after hearing that Nishimura was coming back, but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to go back to how I’d been before. And then I walked in on you that day, your things all over the place, my marks all over you... it was so natural, like you belonged there, like we belonged together. I felt like I’d come home, for the first time in an age, but it was all a lie; you didn’t know me, maybe never could, and it hit me all at once, the cruelty and unfairness of it all to y—”
Haru stops abruptly when Makoto calls him, gently takes his face between his hands. His cheeks heat in mortification over his rambling emotions and words, the moisture he feels at his eyes, and the color deepens when his lower lip trembles slightly as Makoto’s thumbs gently brush it away. “I’m sorry, Makoto. I never meant to hurt you. Not by letting it go on, not by running away.”
Makoto’s heart aches and his eyes sting, too. “I know, Kaito. I know.” He brushes over the elegant cheekbones next, gives Kaito a gentle smile. “But forgive yourself, ne? Because I do. And besides, it wasn’t just me. This whole curve life’s thrown, it was cruel and unfair to both of us. Giving your life up like you had to, coming here and falling for me, you didn’t ask for any of it,” he explains at the question in Kaito’s eyes.
Haru blinks, jaw dropping slightly, and then, with another breathed laugh, he shakes his head best he can in Makoto’s hands. “You’re incredible. I can’t believe you’re real.”
“Ahh… I’m really not,” Makoto refutes with an awkward laugh, and then his eyes widen when Kaito cups his cheeks in turn.
“You are. And I—” Haru’s phone sounds then and his lips briefly press as he drops his hands away. “I’m sorry. It’s Rin. I need to take that.”
Makoto nods, drops his hands as well. “That’s fine. He was really worried when he couldn’t get a hold of you after that Saturday, Kaito.”
Haru’s lips curve up slightly, amused by the bit of reproach in Makoto’s gentle voice, for Rin of all people. “Mm. But that’s not why. I told him to check in after an hour.” Haru snags his phone and glances up at Makoto. “I figured we’d have the bulk of it out in the open by then, and I didn’t want you to be stuck walking home if you wanted to leave.”
“Kaito.” Haru looks down when Makoto catches his hand as he stands, feels the majority of his remaining tension bleed out at the look in Makoto’s eyes. “I’m staying.”
Chapter 16: The Path to Now
Despite the interruption, Haru is grateful to Rin. The timing of his call had stopped him from blurting something that would have been driven purely from the moment he’d been caught up in, and he’s already put more of himself, and his feelings, out in the open over the past few days than he has his entire lifetime, he thinks. Besides, while he’s incredibly glad that things are turning out as well as they seem to be, he doesn’t want to swing too far in the other direction and scare Makoto away by telling him that he’d spend the rest of his life convincing Makoto of just how amazing he is if he could. Things are going good, better than he could have hoped, but Haru knows that Makoto hasn’t had the chance to really digest any of it yet.
“… hot. If I didn’t have Sousuke, I’d totally do him.”
Haru’s brows shoot up. “What?”
“So you are listening to me, then. I was wondering.”
“Oh, don’t use that tone, Haru. You know I’m just bullshitting and I’m not after your man. I do have Sousuke for one, and for two, Tachibana’s easy on the eyes but he’s not my type. Too sweet.”
Haru rolls his eyes at the man comment, but he doesn’t correct it, either. “Too good for you, you mean.”
“Oi! We’re not that different, you and me!”
“I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that,” Haru says flatly. “But yeah, I know he’s too good for me, too.”
“Don’t let him hear you say that. He didn’t take kindly to me insulting you, at any rate.”
Haru rolls his eyes. “He was probably just put off by you in general.” A smirk forms as he finally reduces Rin to just sputtering into the phone.
“You’re an asshole, you know that?” Rin finally manages, and Haru just hums in response. “So he knows what’s up and he’s staying,” he recaps and Haru’s lips curve up again.
“And you’re still determined to?”
“Fine. I’ll stop asking. I suppose it’d be dumb to leave now anyway, what with him knowing now and all.”
Haru rolls his eyes again. “Would it be that hard for you to just say you’re happy for me?”
Haru snorts in amusement and Rin laughs; there’s a warm moment of silence between them, and then, “Seriously, you know I am, right?”
Haru smiles against the phone. “Yeah, I know.”
“You’ll call me when he decides he’s ready to go?”
“Yeah.” Haru steps onto the porch from where he’d gone into the garden to take the call; his eyes soften when, as he glances into the living room, he sees that Makoto’s head has dropped against the back of the couch and his eyes are closed. “He doesn’t need to be walking that far yet.”
They say their goodbyes and Haru disconnects the call before stepping back into the house. He pauses just inside the threshold and simply looks at Makoto for a moment, hair flopped back from how his head is resting, lips lightly parted and glasses slightly askew. That warmth and want from the normalcy, the of it all; those feelings that had frightened him so badly, that had caused him to run, rise though him again. This time, though, he welcomes them, holds onto them, even as they still take his breath away. Because it can be his. Makoto had said so. Not in so many words, but Makoto knows now, doesn’t blame him, has forgiven him, is still there, looking ridiculously adorable and completely at home asleep on Haru’s couch: it all speaks of Makoto’s acceptance, that Haru’s instinct, his heart, had been right and, for the first time in a very long time, Haru closes his eyes and thanks life for bringing him what it has.
After a second or two, Haru opens his eyes again and he smiles. Out of all the times he’s seen Makoto, with his glasses and without, he thinks this is his second favorite Makoto ever. The corner of his mouth abruptly curves into a smirk as a faint heat settles into his cheeks. His third, he amends, as he recalls how Makoto’s handsome face had looked lax with pleasure as he’d orgasmed that day on the beach. It’s the only version that can bump seeing Makoto in the water down to second.
A soft snore wafts through the room, and Haru can’t bite back his huffed laugh as he watches Makoto start awake. He meets the hazy green from across the room; Makoto sees his amusement and blushes, mumbles an apology as he pushes his glasses up to run a hand down his face.
Haru shakes his head as he crosses over to the couch. “It’s okay. You’ve been through a lot and are still recovering. Go back to sleep if you want. Or I can call Rin back and have him come get you if you want your bed.”
“Mm-mm.” Makoto shakes his head. “I’m good here.” He reaches out, takes Kaito’s hand, and he smiles when Kaito lets him pull him down beside him. “It’s nice of Rin to be willing to do that, though.”
“Mm.” Haru shifts to settle more comfortably, lets Makoto pull his hand back, and then he warms slightly when Makoto’s arm slips around him instead and he’s lightly pulled into the side of his firm, strong body. “Like I said in my note, Rin’s a pain, but he’s an alright guy.”
“He knew you said something rude in your note, you know.” Haru’s brow arches slightly and he tips his head up—and his stomach flips slightly at just how close he is to the amusement twinkling in those beautiful eyes. “Not ‘cause he looked,” Makoto assures, “But you made me laugh when I read it.”
Haru’s lips curve and his eyes laugh. “You’re so easily amused, you know?”
“Mm. But I was also very happy because it was Kaito’s note and I was going to get to see you soon.” It’s Makoto’s turn to laugh when Kaito’s cheeks color and he turns his head away with a muttered, embarrassing. “Rin told me you’ve known each other since uni,” he says after few seconds of comfortable silence pass. “Did you meet through your general studies?”
Haru shakes his head. “Through swimming, actually. We were both there on sports recommendations. I was in arts. Rin was in criminal justice.”
Makoto nods, fingers idly running along Kaito’s arm. He feels Kaito shift closer and, whether it was done subconsciously or not, it warms him; after a second or two, he shifts his hold so that he can lightly stroke through Kaito’s hair instead. “No offense, but that seems much more suited to you than detective work,” he softly shares. Kaito laughs, and Makoto knows it’s sarcastic. Kaito’s happy laughs are almost soundless, breathed out on his joy. “Kaito?”
“It was. At one time. But life can change things on you.”
Makoto feels Kaito tense against him and he gently tightens his hold. “Hey. Hey,” he says again when Kaito doesn’t look at him. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to,” he says softly, seriously, once Kaito finally does.
For a few seconds, Haru actually considers taking the out. He thinks about his past often; it’s had too large of a part in shaping who he is for him to leave it where it belongs. But random thoughts here and there are different than talking about it, which is something he’s never really done. Not even Rin knows everything, and he was with him through all of it. Haru trusts Makoto, believes that he would be just fine with letting it drop, but damn if it doesn’t make him feel even more like he should tell him. “It’s alright,” he finally says, still holding Makoto’s gaze. “It’s all part of it.”
Makoto doesn’t miss the myriad emotions passing through Kaito’s eyes: minute, but clear as day if you know what to look for. The blue, which freezes like ice when Kaito closes himself off or is angry, shifts like the sea when he’s anxious or upset, sorrowful or guilty. Makoto had seen more than one of those feelings flow through in the past several seconds, so he’s surprised when Kaito tells him it’s alright. He knows it’s been an emotionally charged day for Kaito, too; knows that Kaito isn’t as comfortable with those emotions as he is. But Kaito’s determined now, Makoto can see that too, so he nods. “Alright. If you’re sure.”
“It was our second year of university,” Haru begins, shifting out of Makoto’s lazy embrace and leaning forward, forearms on his legs, hands loosely clasped in between. “We were in Niigata; we’d just finished our last meet of the competitive season. After dinner that night, groups of us went our own ways to celebrate. I ended up at a club with Rin and some others I’d become friends with.” His lips curved up slightly, remembering. “It wasn’t really my scene, but I did have fun. We all did. We were flying pretty high and we pushed our curfew to the limit.”
The smile that had risen in response to Kaito’s fades as Makoto watches him through the pause; he doesn’t like the look that’s settled into Kaito’s eyes, and he wants to reach for him, draw him back into his side, but Kaito had distanced himself for a reason, so he holds back, waits for him to continue.
“When we left the club, we cut into one of the side streets, trying to beat our bus to the stop. A group of men jumped us before we were even half down it.” Haru hears Makoto’s soft intake of breath and Haru’s fingers lace together and tighten. “At first, we thought it was because we’d all come out of a gay club, but it was pretty clear not too long into it that they were after one kid in particular—a boy whose father, it turned out, had high clearance in the Cabinet. The way they fought… We were expendable to them, but they barely touched him; they just kept trying to pin him in so they could take him. It was bad,” he says quietly. “We all took a beating. And the boy I was closest to, he took the brunt of it. He went down; cracked his head just like you did on Obon. The men ended up running—too much commotion, I guess—and the police were there in minutes. But it was too late for Hayate. They couldn’t stop the bleed and he ended up dying in surgery.”
Horror races through Makoto’s veins as he listens: for what Kaito and his friends had gone through, for years—since his childhood—that he’s spent terrified of being grabbed and taken away like Tamura-san had been, for how closely it all resonates with his most recent experience. Tears rise to his eyes when he hears about the boy that hadn’t made it, and he can’t help it; he reaches for Kaito, draws him into his side again, breathes a tremulous apology against his temple before he kisses it. “So sorry,” he murmurs again, shifting a bit to hold Kaito with both arms when Kaito draws his legs up to curl into him. The boy I was closest to, Kaito had said, but the way Kaito has pressed into him, the silent nod he gives, Makoto just knows there was more to it than that. “He was your boyfriend, wasn’t he? Hayate?”
Haru tenses minutely when Makoto takes hold of him, but more from surprise than anything. He’d briefly retreated those six years, but Makoto’s touch brings him back to the present, and an ache runs through him as he accepts the embrace. Makoto’s hoarse apologies further pull at his heart and he lets himself give into it fully, breathes deeply as he burrows against Makoto’s chest, lets Makoto’s scent, his presence, comfort and ground him. “Kind of?” he murmurs to Makoto’s question, turning his head just enough so that Makoto can hear him. “Not quite? I don't really know. We were very close; we’d had sex a few times… I wanted to be, but looking back, I don’t think he did. He’d laugh about it; say that we didn't need the label.”
Makoto’s lips gently press. “It was important to you, though,” he says, choosing his words carefully to not speak ill of the dead. “It should have been to him, too.”
“One would think. But I guess he thought labels were old fashioned.” Haru tips his head up in question when Makoto softly snorts.
“He would have had a field day with me then,” Makoto explains in wry tone. “That bit of him sounds like Koji. He was always riding me about that.” He recalls the thoughts he’d had during those two weeks that Kaito had been gone and he colors. “Not that Koji was wrong.”
Haru studies Makoto’s eyes, then leans up and gives him a gentle kiss. It’s their first since that day they’d been together in the water and warmth rushes through him as he reacquaints himself with Makoto’s taste. “There’s nothing wrong with that Makoto,” he murmurs against Makoto’s lips when they part. There’s nothing wrong with you.”
Makoto smiles, eyes crinkling, and he nudges Kaito’s nose with his own. “You either,” he says lowly before kissing Kaito in turn, lightly suckling at his upper lip as they part to rest their foreheads against each other’s. “I’m sorry about Hayate,” he says softly, and Haru nods.
“Me too. But it’s alright, too. If it wasn’t for that night, I wouldn’t have been here when I needed to be. Like I said, Rin was in criminal justice,” he continues when he sees the question in Makoto’s eyes. “He saw how I was struggling and knew I was there for art. He told me I should try and draw the guys, so I did. They were able to ID one of them, who fingered the others as part of a plea bargain. But it wasn’t enough. I couldn’t get past my loss, or the threat to my friend over something as stupid as who his father worked for. So, I switched curriculums and joined Rin in criminal justice. It couldn’t bring Hayate back or erase the trauma of that night, but I at least felt like I was doing something.”
“Kaito.” Haru blushes at the warmth and wonderment in Makoto’s eyes and he drops his gaze away. Makoto softly laughs and shifts a hand to turn his face back up. “And you say I’m the incredible one,” he murmurs, and then he kisses him again, hand at Kaito’s cheek slipping back to thread through his hair as Kaito tips his head and parts his lips for him. It doesn’t go much beyond that; they’re both too emotionally spent to do anything more than seek comfort through their renewing intimacy, but the thought that goes through their heads as they just hold each other and kiss is one and the same. It’s alright. We have time..
Chapter 17: The Soul Knows
Makoto yawns into his hand and then looks up when he hears a soft giggle. His cheeks pink slightly as he offers a sheepish grin to the waitress smiling down at him, and he thanks her gratefully when she flips his mug and fills it with coffee without asking. He can’t help but feel tired this morning. On top of it being earlier than his usual, he’d had a late night last night. Konoe now has him running an evening aquatic exercise session two nights a week in addition to his clinic hours. It’s something that the director had been contemplating for a while, and he had decided that it would be perfect for Makoto after reviewing his charting on Kaito and the dedication he’d shown to both the therapy and his patient through the process. Makoto had been more than pleased to accept, and not just because, at the time, he’d been trying to distract himself from Kaito’s leaving. He knows it speaks highly of his own work and of Konoe’s value in him to be asked to spearhead such a project so early on in his career. Beyond that, he really does have a passion for the therapy. But they’d had a callout at the clinic yesterday, too so, instead of having his morning admin time, he’d taken on extra patients; between that and the evening session, he’d been at the clinic until after nine finishing up his charts.
That said, part of the sleepiness is his fault. He’d spent far too much time once he finally had gotten home Lining with Kaito. But even then he probably would have managed alright, had it not been for a late phone call from Kisumi, who had promptly run him up one side and down the other because it’d been over two weeks since they’d actually talked. And no, Makoto, Line doesn’t count. Not when you’re best friends who live three blocks from each other.
Makoto feels badly. He does. He knows that Kisumi’s right. But he’s smiling, soft and happy, as he stirs his coffee. Save for unintentionally hurting Kisumi’s feelings—which, hopefully, breakfast together will amend—the time that has passed has been amazing.
Soft conversation had continued to fall between slow, gentle kisses that first Saturday that he and Kaito had been back together. At some point, Kaito had asked him if he’d needed time to process and think and Makoto had told him no. There’s nothing to think about, he’d said. Names are important, but they don’t make up who you are. You’re still you, with or without it. You stayed and you told me everything you could, despite the risk to yourself, the risk that I’d reject you anyway. That’s told me all I need to know about who you are, Kaito.
Makoto’s lips curve up slowly against his mug as he takes a drink. Actually, they hadn’t done much talking at all after that, but there’d been a lot more kissing, with only soft promises and assurances whispered in between, until they’d fallen asleep right there on the couch. Apparently, they both had needed it. They hadn’t woken up until well after dark when the telltale squeak from the genkan door sliding had startled them. Makoto draws his lower lip in to moisten it. Kaito had been on his feet and awake, every muscle in his lithe body coiled to spring, before Makoto had even sat up. He’d looked dangerous. Sexy. Makoto chuffs a laugh. And those are not thoughts he should be having out in public.
The intruder, of course, had been Rin, who’d promptly bitched Kaito out for both falling asleep and for not getting that damned thing oiled yet. Makoto could have told them both it would be pointless—that the squeak is as much a part of the house as the door is—but he hadn’t been about to step in the middle of their glaring match. After a moment or two, Rin had folded anyway with an irritated sound and wave of his hand, and then Kaito had fixed tea… Makoto shakes his head in amusement. He doesn’t think he’s ever known quite as mismatched of a pair, still isn’t sure what he thinks about Rin, but he’s important to Kaito, so he’ll deal with it.
On Sunday, Rin had taken him back out to Kaito’s. It had been the redhead’s last day before returning to Tokyo, so the three of them had spent most of it on the beach, Makoto more literally than the other two. After their first time out in the water, Rin had made some comment about Kaito’s shoulder and a tackle as they’d come back onto the sand, and Makoto still feels stupid that it hadn’t been until then that everything had clicked together and he’d realized that Kaito had been the one that had saved him. He’d instantly worried, which had only pissed Kaito off at Rin more, and of course Rin had blustered that it was all Kaito’s fault for not having told his man already.
Makoto’s cheeks warm. Regardless of the circumstances, he’d liked the sound of that. Even more so when Kaito hadn’t disputed it.
Despite Kaito’s assurance that he’d been cleared by the ED, Makoto had insisted on checking the shoulder himself, and he’d sighed in relief when not even a deep palpation of the joint had caused Kaito any tension or pain. Things had settled out after that and the rest of the day had passed decently, Rin and Kaito swimming and the three of them chatting in between the lunch and snacks Kaito had put together to bring down. Monday had definitely been worse, stuck at home, unable to drive or even text but, thankfully, his follow up had been first thing Tuesday and, after that, things had fallen back into a routine; different than what it had been before, but better.
On Makoto’s standard days, he’d go to Kaito’s for dinner and, after, they’d go to the beach or walk and then spend the evening together. The days that he had the evening session, they’d Line late into the night, and the weekends completely belonged to each other: talking, napping, swimming or hiking, making out. A familiar warmth teases low through Makoto’s abdomen again as he lingers on that latter thought: the taste and feel of Kaito’s mouth, his skin, the weight of him on his lap, the solid heat of Kaito’s cock in his hand and Kaito’s slim fingers wrapped around his as they’d gotten each other off on Kaito’s couch the night before last. Makoto drops his head and lowly groans in frustration. He should have been able to go back out to Kaito’s tonight after work, but Konoe had scheduled a dinner meeting with some of the clinic’s funders and he wants Makoto to present on the aquatic exercise program. God only knows how long that will run, which means he won’t see Kaito for another day yet. Unless—
“Makoto! Sorry I’m late!” Kisumi apologizes as Makoto’s thought cuts off and his head snaps up with the call.
Makoto smiles and shakes his head. “Only just, Kisumi. It's fine.”
Kisumi flashes him a grin of thanks as he takes his seat and then, “Boy, I really startled you! You must be really tired—or you were in a deep daydream about lover boy.”
Makoto about chokes on his coffee. “Kisumi!” he hisses after swallowing it down. “I really wish you wouldn't call him that!”
“Isn't he, though?” Kisumi grins again, slowly this time. “Never mind. I can tell from your blush that he is.” He flags the waitress down and, once she leaves after filling his cup, he folds his arms on the table and leans over it slightly. “C’mon, details!”
Makoto gapes slightly in disbelief and then he snorts softly, but largely at himself. After so many years, Kisumi’s brazenness shouldn’t shock him like it does. “No. And you can pout all you want,” he says with an affectionate smirk. “I’m still not going to talk about that!”
“Then talk about him!” Kisumi pushes after a very put-upon sigh. “What's he like? What does he like? Why’d he run away from you like he did?”
Makoto’s eyes go wide and he about chokes again; Kisumi’s usually slyer and less blunt with his digs, but then he sees Kisumi’s expression and he quietly sighs, anxiety and guilt and affection swirling through him. He knows that Kisumi is concerned about him, realizes he has been all this time, but Makoto’s just been too swept up in everything to really even think about that. He feels bad about that, even worse because Kisumi is hurt, but he’s also anxious; how can he tell his best friend the truth without actually telling it?
“I’m sorry, Kisumi,” he begins. “I’ve really been a bad best friend, huh?”
Kisumi’s eyes soften and he shakes his head. “You couldn’t ever be, Makoto,” he relents. “I know you’ve just had a lot going on.”
“Yeah. And it’s all happened so fast.” His lips part slightly when he sees a sly look start to slip back into Kisumi’s eyes. “Not like that!” he declares with a laugh and a bit of warmth showing in his cheeks. Shaking his head at Kisumi’s antics, he takes a swallow of his coffee. The conversation is further delayed when the waitress comes to take their order, but then Makoto mimics Kisumi’s position, arms on the table, and he smiles. “Kaito’s good. He’s quiet, shy in some ways and a lot bolder than me in others,” he says with a chuckle. “He’s incredibly intelligent, and so talented, Kisumi. We’ve talked about his swimming, but he’s also amazing in the kitchen, and his illustrations are just beautiful.” He shares what little he knows of Kaito’s parents, speaks more carefully of Kaito’s collegiate career, and then he sobers a bit, though a slight smile remains. “As for why he ran, he got scared. Not of me,” he says quickly when Kisumi’s brows arch. “Of the situation. How close we were getting, how much he wanted it. He had a bad experience in his past and well, we’ve all got ghosts that haunt us, you know?”
“Mm.” Makoto tips his head at the noncommittal sound and Kisumi gives a slight smile. “Yours didn’t stop you from doing the right thing when you went after Matsui-san, though.”
“No,” Makoto agrees with a small smile. “But I’ve never been on a boat. I don’t go in the ocean further than I can touch, and I only windsurf because I’m in control of the board and can go to shore whenever I want. And he felt really bad, Kisumi,” he says gently, heart aching softly as he recalls those moments that they’d spent together on Kaito’s sofa, the guilt and regret and tears in Kaito’s eyes. “I don’t think that he’s forgiven himself for it yet, but I hope he manages to someday.”
“Because you have.”
“Mm.” Makoto nods. “I know what it's like to be scared. Look at how long it took me after Koji, ne?” A text tone sounds from his phone as he talks and Makoto’s eyes light even as he silences it. It’s Kaito’s tone, but he can wait until after breakfast, he tells himself. Kisumi deserves his undivided attention after his neglect.
“Do you love him?”
The question brings a soft warmth to Makoto’s face as his gaze drops to his empty mug. “Everyone who supposedly knows says that love early on is really just infatuation, that it’s more just lust and the thought of being in love than a true connection with the actual person,” he replies, and then he smiles, gives a very soft chuckle.
“But?” Kisumi prods, unable to help but smile gently himself as he watches Makoto. For someone who cannot hide his emotions, Makoto can be awkward when it comes to speaking about them. Kisumi thinks it’s cute, but his heart also aches from it. As a boy, Makoto had been very open, even into young adulthood. He knows that this reluctance is borne from the nonsense with Koji.
Makoto’s smile widens. “Do you remember when Kana-chan confessed when we were ten and how upset I got?”
Kisumi laughs softly as he nods. “You were devastated; you thought you’d broken her heart when you turned her down,” he reminisces over the soft buzzing sound Makoto’s phone makes to remind him of his waiting text.
“Yeah. Well, when Nanase-san found out what had me so upset, she asked me how I felt about Kana-chan. I told her I thought she was kind and cute and we’d been friends a long time and that everyone said I should like her.” Makoto looks up at Kisumi, still smiling. “Nanase-san told me that, when love really happened, things like time and what anyone else said or thought wouldn’t matter. The soul will know when it’s met the one it’s meant to love. How I feel when I’m with Kaito, and especially how I feel without him; it’s so different than how things ever were with Koji, Kisumi.”
“So?” Kisumi nudges gently and Makoto’s gaze drops again, then lifts back to his best friend’s.
“It knows.” He holds Kisumi’s eyes as Kisumi studies his own, and then Kisumi gives him a soft smile.
“Then you better answer that, ne?” Kisumi nods to Makoto’s phone. “It’s him, right? I could tell with how your eyes lit when you heard it.”
Makoto’s cheeks heat again as he smiles and nods. “Mm. Thanks, Kisumi,” he says softly and then he picks up his phone.
Come over tonight he silently reads. I don’t care if it’s late. Stay with me.
Makoto’s color deepens and his smile lights his eyes as he swipes back, I’ll be there.
Chapter 18: Want
Haru had felt a mixture of pathetic and embarrassed after he’d sent the text to Makoto that morning. He’d known he wanted to see Makoto; he’d not been able to stop thinking about him since—well, for months now, but ever since Wednesday, it seemed all he could think about. Makoto’s smile, his gentle nature and warmth, his intelligence and teasing humor, his hands, his taste, his body. Haru huffs at himself and then slides down against the back of his tub to submerge his head under water. Makoto turns him on so easily, just by being, it seems. It’s ridiculous. He’s never felt want or need like this before, but there he’d been, so put out at having to wait another day to see Makoto that he’d sent the text off, stay with me and all, before he’d been able to talk himself out of his momentary petulance. He does console himself with the thought that, if he had sounded needy, Makoto won’t say a thing about it—though, he thinks with a gentle smirk, he wishes he could have seen the pretty blush he just knows had colored Makoto’s cheeks when he’d read the last.
Even imagining it was a fair enough silver lining, Haru thinks.
Feeling the hint of a burn in his lungs, Haru pushes himself up out of the water and shakes his head to clear some of it from his hair. Wednesday. Warmth shivers through him as he thinks back to it. Makoto is so attentive and so attuned to him; the pleasure points he’s found, how he kisses and touches him, everything is geared toward Haru’s pleasure, and Haru drowns in it, every time. How can he help it? He’s not surprised that Makoto excels in it: he’s tactile by nature and his feelings for Haru are as blatant in his handsome face and gorgeous eyes as they’ve ever been. Beyond that, it brings such pleasure to Makoto, pleasing him, that Haru can’t stop the soft sounds and needy touches he gives in reciprocation. But he wants to find out what turns Makoto on, too: what will make him come undone.
Wednesday. Haru softly snorts and shakes his head again before climbing out of the tub. It had been like they’d been trying to make up for Tuesday without each other and the two days to follow that they’d only have Line and—for Haru, at least—his hand. Like horny teenagers, really, he thinks, but he supposes it’s not far from the truth; they’ve each only had the one partner, it’s been years for them both, and neither of them have wanted, have cared about, anyone like they do each other. Dinner had nearly been ruined on Wednesday by the time they’d even managed to come in from the genkan, and they’d never made it down to the beach for their swim after. It seemed as if they’d barely taken their last bites before they’d been on each other again, Haru quite literally, straddling Makoto’s strong thighs and pushing close as those hands had mapped him from shoulders to waist and ass.
Tell me what you like, he’d asked against Makoto’s ear, and Haru’s face heats again as he recalls his boldness, but Makoto hadn’t minded. He’d just laughed a bit and had turned to mouth over Haru’s ear in turn—and nearly make Haru forget his mission. This, Makoto had said, and you. Which Haru doesn’t doubt is true, but it does make him wonder if Makoto really even knows—beyond the basics, of course, and what Makoto has found out on his own. Because he also knows that it isn’t in Makoto’s nature to be coy.
He’d teased along Makoto’s neck then as Makoto’s hands had snaked up his shirt, had felt Makoto tense as he’d reached a spot between his left pulse point and collar bone, and had recalled Makoto’s reaction when he’d marked him that Saturday on the beach. You liked being bitten, he’d reminded Makoto as he’d teased the area with little licks and nips, though he’d been more careful that time—he wasn’t the only one seeing Makoto in the water anymore after all—and a different want had filled him when Makoto had breathlessly told him he’d not known until Haru had marked him: the want to learn every spot that brings Makoto pleasure, something he suspects that Koji had never bothered with, and to wreck him with it.
He’d not had much of a chance to on Wednesday. Of course Makoto hadn’t been idle; those large hands had been everywhere they could reach as hot breaths and soft moans had teased over Haru’s neck and ear while Haru had explored Makoto’s, and when a scrape of teeth to Makoto’s Adam’s apple had brought Makoto’s hips up and he’d felt the push of Makoto’s erection against his own, his mind had blanked everything out but having it. Heat rushes through Haru fast and hard as he thinks about the sight Makoto had made, fly parted, underwear pushed down, long, thick cock dripping onto that perfectly toned abdomen as Haru had taken it into his hand.
“Fuck.” Haru looses a slow, slightly shaky breath through pursed lips and shoves a hand back through his hair. It really is ridiculous, how little control he has over this. It should frighten him, truly, but the only way it does is in the way that he shouldn’t fixate on. He’s always been slow to trust, to open up, to relinquish control, and his training has further instilled that in him, but he doesn’t fear having given any of it for Makoto. What he does is what he’d become, what would become of him, if anything were to ever happen, if Makoto was ever taken from him like Hayate had been. That had been hard enough and, compared to what he feels for Makoto…
Haru presses his lips tightly as he stalks over to his bureau. That’s a road he absolutely cannot go down. It’s either risk it or avoid it altogether by cutting things off, and he can no more do that than he could give up breathing—and he rolls his eyes as he realizes he really should apologize to Rin for every time he’s harassed his friend for getting soft over Sousuke.
Makoto’s knock comes as Haru is tugging on his shirt; grabbing his towel, he rubs it over his hair again as he steps out of his bedroom, a small, affectionate smile briefly showing as he recalls how Makoto had fussed at him for not having dried it properly the week before. Haru’s never really been one for doting, but he finds he doesn’t mind it from Makoto, finds it amusing and sweet. He huffs a laugh and shakes his head, cheeks heating. He really does have it bad.
He can’t bring himself to mind that, either.
Draping the towel over his shoulders, Haru heads down the stairs, finger-combing through his hair. He steps into the genkan to answer the door and his mouth goes slightly dry when he opens it, not from his prior thoughts—though they do come back to him in a warm rush. Makoto has obviously come straight from his sponsor’s meeting and he’s standing there in suit and tie, looking more handsome and well- built than anyone should ever have the right to.
“Kaito?” Haru blinks, looks up. “Can I come in?”
“Ah. Mm.” He steps to the side, turns and closes the door and, as he does so, he catches a glimpse of a pinked cheek from the corner of his eye. His own follows suit when his mind finally catches up and he realizes he’d been staring. “Sorry,” he murmurs, unable to help but take another look over Makoto’s figure as Makoto sets his bag down and bends to untie his shoes. Makoto glances up at him, catches him again, and chuckles a bit as Haru turns his head away.
“Mm-mm.” Makoto straightens, lightly touches his cheek, and Haru lets him turn his gaze back. “Don’t be sorry. It makes me feel good,” he admits, his own color rising again. “And I can’t keep my eyes off you when I’m with you, either.” He dips his head, takes his mouth, then smiles against it as they part. “Missed you.”
Haru’s heart speeds as Makoto’s eyes crinkle with his smile as their foreheads come together. He’s so, so gone for him. It takes his breath away and all he manages is a you too, but there it is, that smile that makes it seem like he’s just given Makoto the world, the one that Haru thinks has only ever been for him because, had Koji ever received it, Haru doesn’t know how he could have ever let Makoto go. That, and a million other wonders that Haru can’t fathom, but it doesn’t matter because he did, and Makoto’s there now, and his, and he knows it wasn’t meant to be any other way.
“It’s nothing.” Ignoring the renewed heat in his cheeks, Haru tips his head slightly to kiss Makoto again and then pulls away and takes his hand to draw him in from the genkan. “How was your meeting?”
“Ugh.” Makoto draws out the last and Haru looks over his shoulder with a smirk, arching a brow at the whine. “I just really hate them, you know?” he explains.
“Mm.” Haru drops his hand with a nod once they’re in the living room, turns, and brings his hands up to Makoto’s chest. “I never cared for them either,” he shares as he runs his fingers up the crisp white shirt, briefly lamenting that Makoto must have unfastened the jacket’s buttons before he’d gotten into the car. But there’s still the tie, and he moves his touch inward, toward the knot, as he draws near the collar. “Did they like your presentation, though?”
“Mm.” Makoto tips his head back just slightly, hands settling on Haru’s waist, as Haru’s fingers move to the tie. “They were intrigued by the theory, even more so by the numbers—I was even surprised by them,” Makoto interjects to admit. “I knew they were charging for the session, of course but, until Konoe-sensei gave me the data for my slides, I wasn’t aware of what, or how many they’ve had to turn away once the slots had been filled—or because they couldn’t afford it.”
Makoto’s voice changes slightly with the last and Haru glances up at him as he loosens the silk. He’s knows of Makoto’s passion for his work first-hand, and he’s not surprised that the financial aspects are of little interest to him, or that it bothers him that some had been turned away because their own prohibited it. “Of course not. You’re there for the patients, not the profit.” He places a kiss to Makoto’s slightly turned up chin as he lets the tie fall, open, onto his chest again. ‘Though I’m sure the sponsors picked up on your passion for it, too.”
“Mm.” The tone is slightly lower this time, and Makoto’s thumbs have edged their way beneath Haru’s tee-shirt to lightly brush the skin along his waistband. “A beautiful thing, one of them called it,” he says with a chuckle as Haru’s fingers move back in to start unbuttoning his shirt at the collar. “At the end of it, they were impressed enough that Konoe-sensei’s sending me to Tokyo for an aquatics conference that Todai is sponsoring. He knows I’m not interested in the admin piece of it, but he feels it will be a good educational opportunity both personally, and through networking with other smaller facilities like ours: how their programs work, what works, etcetera.”
“Konoe’s smart,” Haru murmurs as he reaches the last button he can reach; his hands briefly hesitate and, after a second, Makoto’s lightly tighten. Heart speeding slightly and warmth teasing through him, Haru takes the silent permission and drops his hands lower to work open Makoto’s belt. “He knows you’ll be there with the right eyes and ears and come back with what’s best for your patients and Iwatobi.” Belt open, he moves to Makoto’s fly, the back of his hand lightly bumping the firming line of Makoto’s cock as he unfastens that button. His fingers shake slightly as, after the zip, they slide in for those last two on his shirt; Makoto’s head has dropped forward onto his now, his breaths warm and rapid, thumbs dipping down beneath his waistband to stroke the jut of his hips.
Haru’s not sure what about this has him turned on the most: the domesticity of it, the intimacy, Makoto’s proximity, the anticipation, but he is, so much, and Makoto is, too. His response on Konoe is a mere breath in Haru’s hair as he waits for Haru to finish with his shirt and drop his hands away so that he can pull him flush and take his mouth. Haru’s hands come up to rest on those shoulders, his left eventually making its way into Makoto’s hair, and when they part several moments later, blushed and breathless, he licks the line of saliva from his lower lip and finds Makoto’s ear. “Go shower,” he says against it, then kisses a spot beneath, feels Makoto shiver. “I’ll get your bag, shut down the house and meet you upstairs.”
Makoto nods, kisses him again, hard and fast, then steps back from him. Haru watches as he slips off his jacket, and then his dress shirt, to carefully hang them over the desk chair, watches the flex of his shoulders and back through the snug tee shirt he’d worn underneath, and he draws his lower lip in again. Yes, Wednesday had gotten away from him, but they had no time constraints tonight: no early admin or clinic hours, no drive home, to keep in mind. If he gets swept away again tonight, he’ll have time enough to start over. Haru can definitely think of worse ways to spend the weekend than keeping Makoto in his bed until he manages to thoroughly take him apart. He breathes a laugh as, after shutting out the lights, he goes back for Makoto’s bag. And at least, tonight, they’d made it out of the genkan.
Chapter 19: Sated
Makoto’s eyes fall shut as the water slides over his shoulders and down his back, and then he huffs a laugh to the tiles. He doesn’t know who he’s trying to fool. He’s so tightly wound right now in a mixture of arousal and nerves that he doesn’t think anything will relax him, with the likely exception of what he’s nervous about. And it’s dumb to be nervous. He knows. It’s not like he and Kaito haven’t already been together, haven’t made each other come, don’t know each other’s pasts. He trusts Kaito about Hayate, that he was it, that they’d only been with each other; knows that Kaito trusts him, that despite Koji’s infidelity, he’s clean, confirmed for the nth time since he’d walked away all those years ago by the pre-employment panel they’d run prior to his start at the Iwatobi clinic. But Makoto knows where this is heading tonight and well, that was when things with Koji had fallen apart, wasn’t it; when Koji had decided he wasn’t enough and the wrong sort of good, after they’d started having sex.
Logically, Makoto knows it wasn’t him; that it’d had nothing to do with how boring or old-fashioned he might or might not have been. He knows that it was Koji, that once Koji had gotten what he’d wanted from him, there’d been no interest, no fun to it anymore. He knows that Koji had taken advantage of his heart and nature to skate by on everything Makoto had given to, had given up for, him until he’d gotten caught in his lies and cheating. He also knows that it’s completely different with Kaito. He’s caught the looks, like in the genkan earlier, has seen blatant want and the depth of Kaito’s affection for him in Kaito’s eyes. More than that, it’s in every piece of himself that Kaito has given him, everything Kaito has risked to be with him, and Makoto’s lips press softly as he straightens. It is dumb, his worry, because there isn’t any question. Of course he’s going to trust what’s right here over the whispers of a fading scar.
Tension thrums through Haru’s spine when the soft sound of the shower abruptly cuts off, but it’s purely anticipatory. He’d overcome any anxiety or doubt he might have had the moment Makoto had accepted and forgiven him, had asked him to forgive himself. Haru wishes with all that he is and has that he could give Makoto that last little bit of himself in telling his name, but he trusts Makoto when he says that it doesn’t matter, and it lies very small and very quiet in the recesses of his mind behind so many other, infinitely more important, things.
Makoto comes to his door a few minutes later, towel around his shoulders, tee-shirt in hand, wearing the shorts Haru had found in his bag and had left in the changing room with the other things he’d needed. Haru lets him look around his room for a moment or two and then goes up to him as he comes in further. Makoto smiles, shyness and adoration and want in his eyes as his arms slip around Haru’s waist and Haru’s come up around his shoulders. “Hi,” he says softly, and Haru smiles, says it back, and kisses him. There’s nothing more to be said, nothing to ask. They both know what they’re there for.
Makoto parts his lips when Kaito’s tongue teases the seam and, as it slips into his mouth, he lightly sucks at it, drawing it deeper, warmth pulsing through him when he hears that soft, pleasured sound he’d been seeking. Kaito licks deep, stimulating the back of the roof of Makoto’s mouth and pulling a low groan from him in turn before stroking over his tongue. Makoto takes the kiss, sucks at Kaito’s tongue again before pushing his into Kaito’s mouth; they break just long enough for Kaito to step back and take his shirt off and then Kaito’s mouth is on him again, briefly teasing that spot on the left side of his neck before brushing over his lips again. “Bed, Makoto.”
Makoto’s cheeks heat further as he nods, and then he takes Kaito’s mouth again, kissing deep and slow, hands wrapping around Kaito’s waist as Kaito backs them the few steps. Makoto releases him with a tug to his lower lip when his calves meet the mattress, and then he sits and scoots toward the middle, the arousal that has been simmering since his inappropriate thoughts at the café that morning heightening in a rush as he catches Kaito’s muted scent from the pillows. Kaito joins him, straddling him between pelvis and knees, and god the look in Kaito’s eyes, it’s like he’s been starving for months and Makoto’s just laid out a feast. It takes Makoto’s breath away, Kaito’s want for him, leaves him far too hot to question it or feel embarrassed.
Haru can see Makoto’s skin flush as he looks him over, trying to decide where to start. He glances up and into Makoto’s eyes, sees only want in return, and it pleases him. He doesn’t want Makoto to feel awkward under his attention, because it’s warranted; he truly is the most gorgeous person Haru’s ever known, inside and out. But he doesn’t want to push it either, his ogling, so he dips his head to tease over Makoto’s mouth, pulling away before Makoto can latch on and distract him from his mission. He moves to Makoto’s right ear next, playing with a spot he’d found just beneath it the other night, and then to his throat; his left collarbone follows, Haru teasing each spot just enough to where Makoto gives him soft, breathless moans and shifts restlessly beneath him, but not so much as to leave any telling marks.
After another brush of his mouth over Makoto’s, Haru pushes back and licks at his left nipple. Makoto lowly groans and pushes his chest up, hands threading through Haru’s hair, and Haru obliges, twirling his tongue over the flesh and teasing it with his teeth until Makoto actually whimpers and rocks his hips up. Haru eases back with a deliberate brush that makes his own breath catch in his throat, presses a kiss to the stiff, reddened flesh before pushing back up to Makoto’s other ear. “You’re incredible, Makoto.” He teases the lobe with his teeth. “You drive me crazy, you know?”
Makoto chuckles, low and breathless, turns his head to take Kaito’s mouth, whines a bit when Kaito pulls away after a few seconds. “Haven’t hardly touched or kissed you yet,” he breathes, words hitching, when Kaito returns to his neck, and his hips arch up when Kaito lightly presses his teeth and mimes the shape of his collarbone. “Mmm, Kaito.”
“You don’t have to.” Haru presses a kiss to that spot then briefly returns to Makoto’s mouth. “You do just because you’re Makoto.”
Just because you’re Makoto. The words send a different warmth through him, one that soothes the last clinging webs of that doubt away and brings a slight sting to his eyes. “Kait—ah!” Makoto’s hips arch again as Kaito catches his right nipple with his teeth and his abused left with his fingers, the intensity of the pleasure causing the hinted tears to rise.
Haru glances up at the slightly choked breath, lifts his head when he catches the glimmer in Makoto’s eyes, smiles a bit when he sees that it’s all purely pleasure. Lowering his head again, he places an open-mouthed kiss to the dip between Makoto’s pectorals and then trails his mouth down. He wants to count Makoto’s ribs, trace his muscles, with his tongue, but he’s already starting to ache from wanting him, knows Makoto’s fully hard as well, so he shifts off to the side and, as he licks into Makoto’s navel, he reaches down and smooths his palm up and over the push of Makoto’s erection.
Makoto gives another throaty groan and arches into his touch; Haru can’t stifle his own when he feels the heat of his cock, the hint of dampness that teases his palm. “Makoto.” Haru lifts his head, catches the hazed stare, gives a light tug to his waistband. “Can I?” Makoto swallows and nods, lifts his hips as Haru pulls his shorts, and the boxers beneath, down. Haru’s mouth goes dry and want jolts through him; he’d been well aware of Makoto’s physique and size but seeing him fully naked and aroused, splayed out on his bed, is something else entirely.
Haru looks up at the call, smiles a bit when he sees the renewed color in Makoto’s neck and chest. “Sorry,” he murmurs with another kiss to Makoto’s navel and then he puts a hand to Makoto’s thigh, silently asking him for space. Makoto complies, brings his legs up slightly at the knees and Haru’s dick throbs; he strips off his track pants, settles between Makoto’s legs, and dips his mouth to Makoto’s cock, groaning low in his throat and lightly pushing against his own erection as he sucks and licks the pre-come from Makoto’s head and slit.
Makoto can’t seem to stop his sounds or light writhing; every press of Kaito’s mouth lights new pleasure through his system in ways he’s never felt before. The lick into his navel had made his hips arch again; he’d never known it was an erogenous spot for him, and when Kaito had lowly groaned as if he’d been the one receiving the pleasure as his touch had ghosted over his dick, another rush of arousal had pushed through him. Makoto understands. It gets him off, too, making Kaito feel good, but knowing it’s the same, hearing it in Kaito’s voice, seeing it in his eyes and the obvious push of Kaito’s erection; it does something to him on a different level entirely.
The bed shifts as Kaito settles between his legs and Makoto’s heart starts to race, fingers lightly clenching the sheets, body anticipating. His lips part in pleasure as the heat of Kaito’s mouth surrounds his tip and, when he feels the tease of light suction, he groans. Another hitches his breath when Kaito’s mouth moves lower to tease over his balls—and then ends in a wanton cry when Kaito pushes his legs up and he feels the wet, warm press of Kaito’s lips to his hole.
“Do you like that?”
The words come to Makoto through a fog and he swallows, lifts his head; his abdomen tightens further at the picture of Kaito peering up at him from between his legs, eyes dark and hungry. Makoto licks his lips and nods. It’s nothing he’s ever been given before, but he wants more of it, more of Kaito’s mouth claiming this most intimate part of him, and his lips part again in breathy anticipation as Kaito’s head falls from sight. “Kaito!” he cries out, toes curling and legs drawing up further in a silent plea for more when he feels the slow drag of Kaito’s tongue over his taint and hole next.
Haru’s not the most experienced with this, but he remembers what he’d liked, and he really likes how Makoto’s reacting to it, likes the sound of Makoto’s gentle voice rough with need and pleasure. “Perfect,” he breathes and, after another kiss to the puckered flesh, he straightens. “Roll over, Makoto,” he murmurs as he gives the base of his own dick a light squeeze and then loosely strokes himself as he watches the flex of Makoto’s back while Makoto pushes himself onto his knees. Haru shivers as his dick leaks fresh as he moves behind him; he runs his hands over Makoto’s perfect ass then parts his cheeks and licks into him.
“Kait—o!” Makoto’s voice hitches and cracks when he feels Kaito’s tongue tease at his rim and then prod at his hole and he shamelessly pushes back, body thrumming for a deeper touch. It’s a different stretch than anything he’s had before, so much wetter and hotter; he feels himself start to open up and Kaito’s tongue pushes deeper, licking inside him, getting him loose and wet before he starts to fuck him with his tongue. A trail of Kaito’s saliva eventually seeps down his thigh and Makoto trembles with pleasure, another shout leaving him when Kaito slips his tongue free and wraps his rim with his lips to suck him dry.
Haru aches. Makoto’s completely given himself over and the sounds he makes, his scent, his taste; Haru knows he’s never been this hard, hasn’t ever experienced anything so erotic. He licks Makoto from his taint to the divot of his back again, groans low in his throat at the high-pitched sound Makoto gives him when he pushes his tongue back in and, after few more thrusts and a last languid suck, Haru pulls off, rests his forehead on the small of Makoto’s back. “I’ve got to stop,” he murmurs, pushing himself to explain before Makoto can question; his breath lightly hitches when he catches Makoto’s taste as he swipes at his lower lip with his tongue. “If I don’t, I’m going to come and I want you in me first.” Makoto’s whole posture changes and Haru picks up his head; his brow furrows slightly when he sees Makoto’s expression. “What is it?”
Makoto’s face heats and he shifts to his side as Kaito sits back on his calves, shakes his head. “Mm-mm. I’m just surprised. I thought—I mean, I’ve never…”
Haru watches him redden further as he trails off and looks away, and then his eyes widen slightly as he realizes. “Makoto.” Haru shifts, crawls up to stretch out beside him, turns Makoto’s gaze to his. “Was that your choice, or his decision?” He sees the answer in Makoto’s eyes before he hears the murmured response, leans up to give him a slow, gentle kiss, thinking that this Koji wasn’t just stupid, he had to be certifiably insane. “Well I like it both ways,” he shares when they part, trying to pretend his face isn’t on fire—for as much as he wants to assure Makoto, it’s still awkward to talk about. “Will you have me?”
Makoto is mortified, feels like he’s broken the moment, but Kaito had caught him completely off guard. He really hadn’t thought about it, had just assumed Kaito would fuck him, especially after Kaito had eaten him out. That he’d done it purely for Makoto’s pleasure hadn’t even crossed his mind, what little of it he’s possessed since Kaito had nudged him onto his bed. But Kaito just rolls with it, doesn’t make him feel stupid or that he’s ruined anything; he still wants him, wants Makoto to have him and Makoto nods, nuzzles a heated cheek, breathes a yes against Kaito’s mouth. Kaito’s lips curve up slightly and Makoto kisses the smile as Kaito pushes closer. A groan slips onto Kaito’s tongue when he feels Kaito’s hand moves between them and bring their cocks together to stroke and, panting harshly, Makoto pulls from the kiss, rolls his gaze downward and watches, abdomen tightening and fresh pre-come leaking to lubricate the slim fingers.
After a few more strokes and another deep kiss, Kaito pulls away and rolls toward his nightstand. Want jolts through Makoto as he’s treated to full sight of Kaito’s pert ass; he rolls with him, takes the lube from Kaito when he pulls it from the drawer. This he’s done enough to himself and, when Kaito settles onto his stomach, Makoto shifts back toward his hips, smooths his hand over the nearest cheek as Kaito pushes up, then kisses it before lubing his fingers. Want tightens through his abdomen again when Kaito reaches back to part himself for him; Makoto strokes over the pucker of flesh and then slips his finger in, a throaty groan sliding past his lips when Kaito takes it with an ease that tells him that Kaito had likely spent part of the day getting himself ready to take him.
Haru’s lips quirk in a brief smirk as that thick finger pushes into him. He knows from Makoto’s breathless curse that he’s been caught, but he couldn’t help it. There’d been too many idle hours between Makoto’s text and his knock at the door and, since Wednesday, Haru’s not been able to stop thinking about having Makoto’s cock. That’s not to say he isn’t a trembling mess by the time Makoto’s got three fingers in him. He’s more confident now, Makoto; nailing his prostate on every push in, and Haru can feel the pleasant sting of the mark Makoto’s nursing on his ass. It’s so much better than anything he could manage on his own. Makoto’s pinky teases at the edge of his rim as those fingers slide deep again and Haru gasps a sound that he can’t bother to be embarrassed about as the sensation jolts through him and his vision blurs. “Ma—ahh…” His eyes flare as the touch comes to his prostate; he swallows, tries again. “Makoto, please pl—ahh! Fuck me!”
Makoto’s fingers still when Kaito starts to beg him; it nearly pulls him over, the sound, everything that rushes through him with it. Doing his best to force his breaths to slow, he nods, kisses the bruise he’s left then eases his fingers out. The flicker of nervousness that tries to ignite is extinguished by the nearly inaudible whine Kaito makes at being left empty so abruptly; it was always the part Makoto had hated the most, and he lightly rubs the stretched and abused rim with his thumb, slips his fingertips back inside him. “How do you want me?” he asks as he gently slides them in deeper, not enough to stimulate, just meant to comfort, dick aching at the slick sound it makes.
Kaito’s eyes flutter closed as he’s filled again, lips parting in a sigh; Makoto’s heart swells. Kaito’s beautiful and, god, he loves him, even more so seeing him utterly taken apart in his want for him. “Like this,” Kaito breathes, “Want to feel you deep.”
“Kaito, fuck.” Makoto drops his forehead to Kaito’s hip, looses a slow, shaky breath, then slips his fingers free and shifts behind him. Kaito pulls himself open for him again as Makoto quickly lubes his cock, then he lines up and pushes in. His breath hitches hard and he looses a groan, hand moving from his dick to Kaito’s waist. He’s just barely in, slightly more than his head, and it’s already the most amazing thing he’s felt.
Haru’s breath catches lowly when he feels Makoto breach him. As well stretched as he’d been, this is entirely different, and as badly as he wants all of Makoto inside him, he’s glad that Makoto’s taking it slow, that they’re as attuned to each other as they are. With gentle thrusts and rocks, they work him in together, and once Makoto’s fully inside, Haru can barely breathe again for being stuffed so full and deep.
Haru blinks, realizes Makoto’s talking to him, feels his fingers stroking over his flank, feels the trembling in them. “Mm,” he breathes, and he gives an experimental shift of his hips, then another. “Makoto feels good inside me.”
“Kaito.” Makoto curves over Kaito’s back, kisses his shoulder blade. “Kaito feels good, too,” he murmurs as he rocks his hips back, and then he lowly groans as he arches back into him again. “Kaito feels amazing.”
The slow, careful thrusts gradually become harder and needier, Kaito rolling his ass back to meet him. At some point, Kaito rocks back hard and brings himself into Makoto’s lap; Makoto curses, settles onto his calves and devours Kaito’s neck and mouth as Kaito sensually rides his dick. When Kaito starts to moan as he drives himself down, Makoto shifts a hand to his cock; after just a few strokes, Kaito’s head falls back, gasping Makoto’s name as he comes. The first tight squeeze to his dick has Makoto seeing stars; he manages an awkward thrust, then another, into Kaito’s pulsing heat and then he’s coming, too, holding Kaito tightly against him.
Haru’s breath chokes sharply with the thrusts against his hypersensitized prostate, and then pleasure of a deeper sort soothes the prickling away as Makoto orgasms and fills him. It’s bordering too much between his cock and his come; Haru’s mind wants to blank with it, so he lets it, knowing he’s safe, that Makoto will take care of him. It’s a new experience, this level of pleasure, of being able to let go completely; lax with it, he’s vaguely aware of Makoto easing them down onto the bed, of the press of lips to his hair. Makoto’s whisper of let me get you cleaned up brings him around a bit, enough to where he reaches for Makoto’s hand, grasps it when he finds it. “Stay,” he mumbles, “Just stay.” His lips curve slightly and he lets himself drift again when Makoto’s hold tightens and he hears his breathed response.
Chapter 20: The People You Run Into
“Tachibana.” Makoto looks up as he closes his laptop, returns Fujiwara’s smile. “Morrison’s talked a few of us into trying to squeeze into Yakitori Ton Ton. You up for it?”
Makoto eyes briefly widen and then he laughs and shakes his head. The Australian is taking full advantage of the trip; every evening it’s been something different from some Internet’s top ten list or another. Makoto’s joined them the two previous nights, and he admits that it’s been fun seeing things through a newcomer’s eyes. But squeeze is precisely what they’ll be doing at Morrison’s pick tonight and, while Makoto might have been alright with the crowd, he’s fine with having experienced the super tight seating and cloying scents of smoke and beer just the once. “I’ll pass tonight, thanks,” he says, and Fujiwara nods.
“See you in the morning, then.”
“Mm.” Once he’s finished packing his things, Makoto takes up the rear of the small group leaving the amphitheater. For a second or two, he contemplates the bus, but then he decides to walk. The hospital’s less than a half a mile from the hotel and it’s a pretty evening, dry, and the humidity’s finally gone. All that’s missing is the scent of saltwater in the air, but Makoto smiles a bit as he thinks it. It’s just two more nights and then he’ll be home; he misses it, and even more because of Kaito, but he’s learning a lot and is glad for the opportunity, excited to see what it’ll mean for Iwatobi.
Makoto’s smile widens. He can’t complain about life at all, really. It’s pretty perfect, even with the bit of mystery still surrounding Kaito. There have been the occasional reminders over the past few weeks. Kaito doesn’t like it that he can’t just come into town and take lunch with Makoto. One morning, Makoto had woken up with Kaito in his arms and had sleepily mumbled that he wished Kaito could come to Tokyo with him. And they both feel guilty that the first thing they’d had to do after deciding it would be fine to tell their parents about them was be evasive when Makoto’s mom had encouraged Makoto to bring Kaito along when he went to Osaka for the new year. For the most part, however, it goes forgotten. They’ve really only talked about it in detail one other time, when Makoto had asked Kaito what the future held for him: what would become of him if they closed down the ring that was after him, or if they didn’t. If they don’t, I’ll stay here and live my life out as Namiko Kaito, he’d said, and he’d explained that the Illustrating wasn’t just a ruse, that they’d provided him with a legitimate job as part of creating the alias’ paper and digital trails. And if they do close it down, the choice would be mine and what I’d feel most comfortable doing. But whatever I chose, I’d find some way to make sure you were a part of it, if you wanted that.
Warmth creeps into Makoto’s cheeks as he recalls his response, how he’d adamantly told Kaito that of course he would, that he loved him. It hadn’t been how he’d anticipated that moment to come at all, almost indignantly blurted as they’d shared a mediocre pizza out of the box with the latest crazy UFO yakisoba commercial running in the background. But he’ll never forget how, after the shock, those eyes that spoke so much for Kaito if you knew how to read them had given Makoto his response hours before Kaito had murmured it on the edge of sleep after they’d made love. And the sex, god. Arousal thrums through Makoto’s body just thinking about it, how sensual Kaito is, how good he feels, how he loves being inside him and hearing the talk that falls from his lips: how full Makoto makes him, how good he fucks him. Makoto wants Kaito to have him too, but he thinks he knows why Kaito’s holding back, and it just makes Makoto love him more. Besides, Kaito’s so good with fingers and tongue that he has nothing to complain about. And they have time. Makoto can wait as long as it takes for Kaito to let go of the bit of guilt he still feels over not being able to give Makoto all of himself.
“Oi! Watch it!”
The heat that had risen in Makoto’s cheeks from his thoughts heightens sharply at the reprimand that brings him back out of his head. “I’m so sorry!” he apologizes with a bow to the man he’d about run over coming out of the convenience store. The guy just scowls and waves him off and Makoto straightens and continues on his way, mentally groaning that he’d let his mind wander there, walking down the street, of all places. Though, he supposes it’s better than the amphitheater—and his cheeks get hot again. Thank god that’s only happened the once!
“Hachi, go. No, to the right.” Hachi stops and gives Yasaka a confused look as he comes rushing out of the store, only to end up grabbed by the shoulder and spun around hard. “To the right, Hachi! After that big guy!”
“It’s him! That fucker that broke my nose in that nowhere town on Obon!”
Hachi’s mouth drops slightly and then he looks forward again at the brown head still visible over the small sea of people. He tips his own slightly, then glances up at Yasaka dubiously. “Are you sure? Because you better be. You were there. Fushimi-sama said he’s done wasting time and resources on this whole Nanase fiasco—thing. Case,” he hastily corrects when he sees the dangerous glint in Yasaka’s eyes.
“Resources.” Yasaka snorts derisively. “Yeah, the whole one man he’s had rattling around down there. Nobou’s so green he could probably have lunch with Nanase and not even realize it. And yes, I’m sure. I mean, the bastard doesn’t exactly blend in, and I never forget a face that owes me. For breaking my nose?” he explains like he’s talking to a two-year-old when he sees Hachi’s head tilt in question. “I swear, Hachi, sometimes, you’re as clueless as Nobou.”
Hachi is used to the insults, lets them flow in his ear and out the other as he idly chews on his lower lip and watches the head several yards in front of them. Yasaka does have a point; the guy doesn’t exactly blend in. But he’s got a bad feeling about this. “Okay, so say it is,” he says a moment or two later. “But Yasaka-san, we don’t even know for sure the guy who crashed the job back on Obon was Nanase. I believe you think it was,” he says hurriedly. “Fushimi-sama must have too, at least a little, or he wouldn’t have even sent Nobou. But it’s pushing two months and the only thing we can confirm is that someone with the surname of Nanase owned a house in Iwatobi once. I have to agree with Fushimi-sama,” he says after a pause, trying to sound braver than he feels in voicing a thought contrary to his partner’s. “There isn’t an agency out there who would be that stupid and send their guy someplace to hide where he actually has connections. And you heard what Fushimi-sama said would happen if we fucked up again. Are you really sure you want to risk it?”
“And like I’ve said, that could be exactly what the agency wants us to think,” Yasaka argues. The Coco Grand Ueno is up ahead, and they watch the guy from Iwatobi turn into the entrance. They continue past it and then turn into the alley between it and the restaurant next door, where Yasaka positions himself so that he can keep an eye on the hotel’s exit. Hachi’s not wrong. He really had erred that night in Iwatobi, and badly, but the festival had been too tempting when they’d had so much time on their hands before their pickup in Fukuoka, and once a petty thief, always a petty thief, Yasaka supposes. Truth told, it had been an easier life than the one he’s caught up in now, and he misses it.
Regardless, Yasaka knows he should have just let things lie that night, but the woman had been the perfect target. She’d had money; he’d been able to tell by the quality of kimono she and that brat of hers had had on, never mind how she’d spoiled the kid with it all night—one of those moms who make their children the whole world, and she should have been an easy mark. But then Mr. Hero had come along. He’d fucked things up badly for him and Hachi both, and they really are on thin ice, but Yasaka knows that the other guy was Nanase. And what better way to get back in good graces than to bring Fushimi the guy who’d taken down his first lieutenant and had set them back several months in the merger with the Imakaya-kai? Obviously, the big guy must mean something to Nanase or Nanase wouldn’t have risked blowing his cover on Obon. And if it’s not Nanase, which it is, then at least he’ll have someone to take it, and his broken nose, out on before he tries to outrun Fushimi’s grasp. It’s win-win, really. “Okay listen, Hachi. Here’s what we’re going to—damn it!”
“He’s come back out already.” Yasaka really hates this guy’s unpredictability. “Come on. Let’s go.”
A strange sensation prickles down Makoto’s neck a few seconds after he steps onto the main crosswalk in front of the coffee shop next to the hotel. He turns to glance over his shoulder, and then he softly snorts at himself. There are at least thirty people following him, many of them intruding on what would have been his personal space back home in Iwatobi. There really isn’t such a thing in the busier parts of Tokyo, and he passes the sensation off as some random thing.
Once he’s safely crossed the street, Makoto slips in his wireless earbuds and accesses the music app on his phone. It is a busier part of the city, but there’s a good place to run, at least. And, for him, it’s always better done outside than on a treadmill. After he passes the open-air stage, he takes the path that runs between the two ponds and loses himself to the music and his running for a bit. It feels good after slacking off the past couple of days to network and socialize. At some point, the glint off of a boat on the Shinobazu pond catches his attention, and a small, slightly sad, smile graces his lips as he glances over. The water is such a duller blue compared to the sea at home, but it’s enough to remind him of it. The chill that’s settling into the air now that the sun is going down makes him think that it’ll soon be too cold to take Kaito to the cove and Makoto wonders what he’ll do all winter without his beloved water.
Makoto knows he can’t dwell on the downside of the life that Kaito is—that they are—living, but it pulls him out of the headspace he’d been in all the same and he decides that this lap will be his last. As he draws near the open-air stage again, he runs through the restaurants he’d frequented during his internship. He decides on curry from Delhi Ueno and makes the call for delivery as he waits for the light on the crosswalk. It’s peak dinner time so he knows he’ll have time to get back to the hotel and take a shower before it arrives. He frowns a bit when, as the light changes, he’s jostled some by the crowd. It’s definitely time to go in, he thinks. It’s not fair for him to be grumpy with the world just because he’s hungry and tired like everyone else probably is.
The shower, and quiet, do wonders, and as he dresses in track pants and a tee-shirt, Makoto laughs a bit at himself when his stomach growls as he thinks about dinner. Delhi Ueno will be a treat, but it’s dropped on his favorites list; his mom always said that love brought out a dish’s best flavor and, as usual, she was right. Not even hers can compare to the curry Kaito makes him. He glances at the clock and picks up the remote, only to put it back down, eyes widening slightly in surprise, when he hears a knock and a call of Delhi Ueno. It’s earlier than what he’d anticipated. The restaurant must be having a slow night, he thinks as he heads over to the door. Not that he’ll complain!
Not thinking twice, Makoto opens the door, and then his brow furrows slightly, but that’s all he has time for. A fist snaps out hard, catching him square in the nose; Makoto takes a reeling step back as he feels it break, feels the blood start to rush, but he’s grabbed and jerked forward. He tries to call out, but the blood’s thick in his throat; the man leers at him like he knows. “I told you you’d pay, you bastard,” he purrs and Makoto knows that voice, but before he can figure anything out, a second punch comes, this one an uppercut to his chin. There’s a brief sensation of his teeth pushing through his lip and then he blacks out.
Hachi grins as he disconnects his call and watches the big guy hit the door frame before Yasaka can catch him. “Driver’ll be out back in two. Nice hit, Yasaka-san!”
“Yeah. Now come on, Hachi. Help me get him down. And make sure he has his phone.”
Chapter 21: Called Out
**Note** This chapter does have a small bit of descriptive injury and violence in it, including blood. I kept it as minimal as I could while still (hopefully!) portraying the situation appropriately. Thanks.
Haru is antsy. He has no real reason to be; it’s stupid, and the lack of logic makes him feel even more on edge. In his life before his sabbatical he would have called it intuition, would have been on guard for the shift of shadow, flash of metal or whisper of sound that would tell him where his mark, or hunter, was. But there’s none of that here, not tucked away in his grandmother’s house like he is, even if he isn’t so naïve as to think there isn’t at least petty crime in Iwatobi and that the incident Makoto had gotten caught up in had been a one-off event. So, he’s left with no other choice than to accept the fact that he’s on edge because he misses his lover and hasn’t heard from him all day.
Haru scowls and huffs impatiently at his hair. That isn’t exactly right. He’d heard from Makoto that morning and then again at lunch. But whereas—before Makoto, at least—Haru would be content to forget his phone existed, Makoto is an avid texter: photos, emojis, actual texts of course; little things through the day that let him know Makoto’s thinking about him. Nonetheless, Makoto is also an adult, and in Tokyo busy learning and networking, which involves some socializing, so there’s no reason to be put out because it’s past seven and he’s not had an evening text or call yet. Except that he is.
Huffing again, Haru pushes himself up from the couch. Maybe a bath will help, he thinks as he snags his phone from the table. He’s just about up the stairs when a knock comes, so unexpectedly that it catches him off guard and then puts him on a different sort of edge entirely. He’s not completely avoided interaction with the locals. He lives in a small neighborhood in a small town, and some of the old ladies have gotten curious, over time, about the boy who lives in the Nanase house. But the only two people he knows and who would actually call on him are both in Tokyo—which is why he’s just as startled a few seconds later when he hears Rin’s voice lowly calling through the door. “Just a minute,” he calls back, and he takes those last two steps and unlocks it. “Ri—” his surprise dies when he sees Rin’s expression and a grim resignation takes its place. “What’s happened?”
And now the Line alert goes off on his phone. And it’s a video call, no less.
Haru mentally groans, cursing the timing of everything. He wants to talk to Makoto, wants to see him, but he knows he really can’t put off Rin, that – whatever it is that has brought him to Iwatobi from Tokyo looking like this—it’s significant. After another second, he lightly presses his lips. “Go in and sit. Just let me tell Makoto I’ll call him back in a few minutes.
Shock jolts through Haru’s system and his gaze jumps back to the phone from where it had shifted to Rin’s in curiosity while he’d accepted the call. The strange man’s lips curve slowly in pleasure and Haru mentally swears, knowing he’s outed himself with his reaction. “Who are you?” Haru demands tautly, not truly caring—in that moment—what their answer will be or how he was found out. He’s desperate to ask about Makoto, but he also knows that he has to play this right, that he can’t give away anything more than he already has.
The man looks smug in his amusement. “Alright, we can use Namiko-san then. It makes no difference. As for who I am, I’m just a man trying to return something I believe belongs to you—if these messages are anything to go by.” Haru’s stomach knots as the caller reaches out of the range of the camera; whomever is holding Makoto’s phone pulls it back to increase the video’s scope, and Haru’s entire body is doused in a sickening chill when, with a hand fisted in his hair, the man jerks Makoto into the viewer, eyes blackened and swollen from his obviously broken nose, dried blood staining his face from it and his damaged lip. “Mm,” the man all but purrs, drinking in Haru’s expression. “Thought so. So then, how about a trade, hm?” The man suddenly becomes all business. “You for him.”
“Kaito, no!” Makoto’s voice is rough, thick, almost unrecognizable, and Haru’s stomach churns, and then harder when the guy frees his hand from Makoto’s hair to backhand him across the mouth. Fresh blood spatters Makoto’s face as his head lolls back out of sight.
Haru’s mind is frantic, tearing at itself between his desperation to do whatever it takes to free Makoto, and what logic remains that’s telling him he can’t play into their hand—that there’s as good a chance they won’t give Makoto over anyway. “I’m five hours from Tokyo by train,” he begins, “I need time to make arrange—”
“We’re not messing around, Namiko-san,” the stranger abruptly cuts in. “Apparently you don’t realize how serious we are.” Haru’s gut churns again when the guy reaches out and jerks Makoto back into view; his blood drains when, in the next instant, the man has Makoto’s closest arm between his own like the cross of an ‘H’.
“No!” But it’s too late; bile rises and Haru actually feels faint when he hears the sickening snap as the man jerks both of his own arms hard and breaks Makoto’s, hears the agony in Makoto’s sharp cry.
“Now you know,” the man says coolly after roughly shoving Makoto out of sight again. “We’re done playing, Nanase-san,” he continues with deliberate emphasis. “I’m certain you have a liaison with the agency. I suggest you reach out to them and make your arrangements. I’ll give you a half an hour to do so, two and a half after that to get back to Tokyo. If I don’t like what I hear when we check back in, I’ll do worse than break your boy’s arm. And I wouldn’t waste any of your precious time trying to track us. We’re on the move.”
“…ru. Haru. Haru!”
The third call comes with a shake to his shoulder and Haru finally comes out of it; realizes the call has disconnected. “Did you get them?” he asks tightly, knowing that Rin will know what he means. Rin shakes his head, then makes a wavering motion with his hand. “Well, which is it?” Haru snaps, and then he pauses, and his eyes narrow sharply. “That’s why you’re here, isn’t it. To tell—no,” he cuts himself off, “That doesn’t make any sense. Makoto was fine at one, nobody knows you know him but me, so how could you ha—”
“Haru!” Haru blinks when he’s abruptly pulled to a stop, so far gone to his whirlwind thoughts that he hadn’t really been aware he’d been pacing. “That is why I came, to tell you!” Keeping hold of Haru’s shoulder, Rin drags him into the living room, ignoring his protests; he pushes him onto the couch, then shoves him back to it again when he tries to stand. “You’re not going, Haru.”
“Like hell I’m not!”
“Haru! Fuck…” Rin shoves a hand back through his hair then drops it to slap against his thigh. “Three minutes. Just give me three minutes to bring you up to speed before you go tearing out of here!”
Haru remains poised forward for a moment or two, and then he drops back. “Fine. Start talking,” he says with a pointed look to his watch, well aware of—and not giving a damn about—Rin’s eyeroll.
“About three weeks ago, one of the local patrol cops got a report of a lurker around the shrine,” Rin begins as he drops onto the couch beside Haru. “Guy wasn’t causing any problems, just giving people the creeps. He was gone when they went to check it out. Few days later, the call came again. They were able to get an ID shot on him that time, but nothing turned up on recognition. Nakayama got antsy about it, what with the proximity to your place, so he called us. I caught the next flight out.”
Haru nods. Nakayama is their sergeant liaison on the Iwatobi force. He’s a good officer. He blinks then; looks up at Rin sharply. “You’ve been here for three weeks and you’re just now letting me know?”
“Just under two, actually. And yeah. You weren’t supposed to know at all.” Rin smirks wryly. “You may have been out of commission for a while, but the chief hasn’t forgotten how you are. The last thing we needed was for you to get any hint of what was up and start digging into things on your own.”
“Whatever,” Haru mutters although he knows it’s a fair point. “Two minutes, Rin.”
“Asshole,” Rin mutters, though without any venom. “Anyway, soon as I heard Makoto was going to Tokyo, I put Sousuke on his tail. A c—”
“Yamazaki? you put fucking Yamazaki on his tail? Rin, Yamazaki got lost on his own camp—”
“For god’s sake, Haru, that was in high school and almost a decade ago!” Rin blurts. “Fucking let it go! And don’t you dare start quoting the time at me again,” he says accusingly when Haru pointedly arches a brow. “This one’s on you!”
“Well get on with it then!”
Rin gapes, then sputters, then runs his hand down his face. “Anyway, about two hours ago, Sousuke saw two men taking Makoto from his room and he tailed them, overheard one of them call for a—what now?” he interjects to demand when Haru’s fists clench on his thighs.
“He was there, and he trailed them instead of saving him?”
Rin’s jaw drops slightly again and, for a moment or two, he just stares. When he does start again, his tone is different, gentler; it brings a heat to Haru’s paled face and he has to look away. “Haru, think about what you’re saying. It would have been two obviously desperate guys on one with no back up, and you know what the rules of engagement are. Besides, I know what Makoto means to you, but you have to think of the bigger picture. This could be our chance to shut down the Fushimi ring and get something on the Imakaya-kai.”
“I don’t care!” Haru’s truly past the point of it. He doesn’t give a damn that Rin is right, doesn't care how his fear is now stinging his eyes as he snaps his gaze back up to the redhead's. “You saw what they did to him! You get a hold of Yamazaki and tell him to stop them now, Rin. Rin!”
Rin scowls and swears under his breath, pushes a hand through his hair. His phone goes off and he drops the hand and stands up to retrieve it from his pocket. “It’s Sousuke,” he shares after a few seconds. “They’ve caught up with the car; they’re heading into Roppongi.”
“Rin. Please,” Haru adds, not able to keep his desperation from his voice.
Rin’s lips briefly press, but then his shoulders slump; he gives Haru a small smile and a nod, then quickly tells Sousuke about the call and the timetable. “You need to get him out of there, Sousuke. No, he’s not being a pushy bitch! No more than I’d be if it was us,” Rin amends, pointedly keeping his gaze from Haru’s. “I know. I know,” he repeats in a quieter, heavier voice, and then with a “Be safe, Sousuke,” and a barely audible, “Love you,” Rin disconnects the call and flops back down. “They’ve already called in the local units and are forcing the perps into a pin in.” He doesn’t bother to tell Haru what frequently happens to the hostage in these situations. Haru knows.
Haru has no doubt what it was that Sousuke had told Rin at the end, what it had been that had made Rin’s voice drop. But he refuses to think about that. He can’t. He’s barely holding on as it is, and he abruptly pushes himself to his feet. “Good. Let’s go.”
“Go wh—” His eyes go wide when Haru looks at him like he’s stupid. Tokyo. “Haru, you can’t!” Haru doesn’t answer; he just turns away and heads toward the stairs. Rin sighs, then pushes himself up from the sofa again. “Fuck. Fine. I’m too exhausted to fight your stubborn, sorry ass. But we’re stopping by my hotel first.”
Chapter 22: The Last Secret
The first thing Makoto notices when he wakes up is that he can’t really wake up. His eyes are fighting him and everything feels foggy and slightly surreal, like he’s still caught in the remnants of a dream he can’t remember. His arm is heavy, too, and it hurts, but in different ways than if he’d slept on it. He turns his head to look at it, catches a glimpse of something white on his face, and brings his other hand up to brush it away. Or tries to. That arm feels heavy, too, and he whines in frustration a bit, too tired and achy and just overall off to really care about how petulant he sounds.
The next thing Makoto notices is that he’s not in his, or Kaito’s, bed. He has no clue how much time has passed since his last thought and this, and that bothers him a bit. He blinks his eyes open again and tries really hard this time to make them stay open, which becomes a bit easier when they land on someone sitting in an unfamiliar chair: a man, with a wild shock of red hair. “Ex—” Makoto grimaces, swallows, tries again. “Excuse me.” The bent head jerks up and from the look in the soft purple eyes, Makoto realizes he’s startled him. “’m sorry,” he apologizes hoarsely as the man stands and hurries over. “But where’m I?”
The redhead’s gaze softens in a way that’s so familiar. “In the hospital,” he says in a voice that Makoto feels he should know as well, and then the man smiles gently, reaches down and brushes fingers through his hair. “I swear, you need so much looking after.”
Makoto’s eyes come open again from where the gentle touch had lulled them closed. “Kaito?”
“Mm.” A finger comes to rest on his lips; Makoto winces. They’re sore, too, but before he can ask anything about anything, Kaito shushes him. “Sleep, Makoto. We’ll talk more when you wake up.”
Makoto nods as his eyes shut, and then he opens them again. Confusion flits through him. He’s in a different room now, and he’s not sure how that’s happened in the time it took him to blink. “Kaito?” he calls out, and then he turns his head to the right when he hears someone stand and approach. His brow furrows again when he sees a redhead instead, and then deeper when he realizes that the light purple eyes are gently laughing. “Where’s Kaito?” he asks, and then he blinks as a fragment of a memory comes back to him. “You’re Kaito,” he says slowly, and Kaito nods, brushes gently through his bangs again.
“I am. You’re doing good to remember, Makoto. It’s been two hours since you woke up last, and you were just coming out of anesthetic then.”
“Right.” Makoto’s eyes slip closed. Anesthetic. Surgery for his broken arm. And, as that last thought flows, everything does. His breaths and heartrate speed as the fear and panic and pain he’d experienced earlier all rush back through him.
Haru’s heart aches as he, quite literally, sees the point at which Makoto remembers. “Makoto. Makoto, look at me. Look at me!” he pleads, slipping a hand through the rails to take Makoto’s, his own breath catching softly as it’s squeezed. “Makoto!” he calls again, and this time Makoto opens his eyes. “It’s okay, Love. It’s over,” he assures, soft and even, repeating the last two words time and again—until the nurse comes rushing in in response to the desk alert. “I think his memory has caught up with him,” Haru quietly explains as he steps back to give her room—as far as he can, at least. Makoto won’t let go of his hand.
By the time the nurse is satisfied that there isn’t anything medically wrong, Makoto’s breaths have slowed, though his heart is still racing slightly. She tells him about the ice chips at his bedside, then instructs him in the use of the pain control pump. She proceeds to push the button for him before slipping the control into his hand and then tells him that it, and the remnants of the anesthetic, should put him back to sleep again, that if the anxiety continues to plague him after she’ll talk to his specialist about something specifically for it.
“I’m sorry.” Makoto rolls his head toward Kaito as she leaves, his brow furrowing as much from the choked quality of Kaito’s voice as from the apology.
“I’m so sorry. I should have just stayed away from you back th—”
“Stop.” Haru blinks at the harsh interruption. “You don’t mean that,” Makoto continues, and a different sort of ache sears through Haru’s heart when he sees a tear snake down Makoto’s bruised, swollen cheek. “Tell me you don't mean that. Please.” Kaito just looks at him, but Makoto refuses to look away. He can’t give in, not this time, even though he knows the answer deep inside, knows they both do. He needs to hear from Kaito’s lips that Kaito still believes they’re worth everything they both have gone through, that the past few hours, the past few months, haven’t been pointless. “Please."
Haru gives a soft, helpless sound. “Of course I don't,” he says almost plaintively. “I love you, with everything I have! But look at you!” his voice softly cracks and his eyes glitter sharply as trembling fingers touch Makoto’s temple, his cheeks, lips, chin. Makoto shakes his head and Haru’s brow furrows; Makoto drops the pump control and catches his hand before he can draw it back and Haru slips their fingers together best he can with the IV and finger monitor.
“It’s not your fault. It’s not,” he persists when Haru’s lips part to protest. Makoto swallows, tries to moisten his mouth; Haru briefly frees his hand, takes the cup from the bedside table and carefully spoons some ice into his mouth. “The men who took me were the same men from Obon,” Makoto continues after thanking him. “Yes, they used me to get to you, but the first thing he said when they came for me was that he’d told me that I would pay.” His eyes try and slide close, but he stubbornly opens them. “It’s not your fault, Kaito. It would have ended like this anyway. Maybe worse. Wouldn’t have had reason to keep me alive if not for you. So thank you.” Kaito gapes, then huffs an incredulous laugh; Makoto’s lips curve up at the sound as his eyes slide closed again. “Missed that.” His hand tightens. “Love you.”
Haru’s touch is gentle as he strokes through Makoto’s hair again. “I love you, too.” He thinks Makoto’s off again, but then his eyes slit back open.
“Nanase.” Haru’s hand freezes. “I heard them say it. Your name.”
Haru relaxes, mentally chides himself. Of course Makoto had.
“Haru.” Makoto speaks his name like a pleasured sigh and something inside Haru breaks in the most beautiful way with the sound of it. The smile Makoto gives is absolutely gorgeous despite his damaged face and Haru blinks hard against his own tears when he reaches out and gently brushes a fresh one from Makoto’s cheek. “Haru. I love it,” Makoto whispers, turning his head just enough to catch Haru’s fingers in a kiss. “Haru, are you related… Nanase-san?”
Haru shakes his head lightly at the fading speech but knows Makoto will continue to fight it, as much as he can, until he responds. “Mm.” He resumes lightly combing through Makoto’s hair. “It’s how I knew about Iwatobi. She was my father’s mother. I figured, if I had to give up that part of myself, I might as well see if I could learn more about it, and me, even though she’s gone.”
Makoto’s lips curve up slightly. “Wish you could have known her, Haru. She would have loved you. Been so proud.”
“Shh. Sleep, Makoto.”
The next hour or so passes in similar fashion: Makoto will wake for a bit, they’ll talk, and he’ll doze off again. They’ve managed to tell most of their stories, some bits more than once due to the drugs interfering with Makoto’s memories—though Makoto admits to not recalling much after they’d broken his arm, save for them muscling him out of the car at some point and then being knocked to the ground; hearing gunshots. Haru, of course, was able to tell him everything he’d been through; that initial call, Rin’s insistence on a disguise, how they’d bluffed their way through the check in call on their way from Iwatobi to Tokyo. How it had all been over, and Makoto had been in surgery by the time he and Rin had gotten in.
Currently, Haru is on the phone with Rin so Makoto’s closed his eyes again, but he’s out of the fog enough that he doesn’t instantly doze off, and he opens them when he hears Haru disconnect the call. “What is it?” he asks as he searches Haru’s face.
Haru rubs at his eyes, drops his hand. “The end of it. Well, this part of it, anyway,” he amends. He pushes the chair back a bit before he sits, and then pillows his chin on his arms once he’s folded them along the bedrail. “Remember me telling you about Yamazaki?”
Makoto nods. Rin’s partner, and the detective that had been following him since Iwatobi, he recalls.
“He’s the one who took you to the ground. The men who abducted you tried to use you as a bargaining chip for their lives when they realized they were caught,” Haru continues. “They were told to bring you out of the car.” Haru’s lips briefly press. “But they didn’t know when to stop. After Yamazaki agreed and they had you out, they decided they wanted more; said they had information on the Fushimi deal they’d be willing to trade if Yamazaki could assure them that they’d be lodged somewhere outside of Fushimi’s reach. Apparently, their driver was more loyal to the Fushimi clan than to them and decided to take them out for their treason. Yamazaki saw him pull the piece and he tackled you out of the gunfire, but the driver ended up taking your abductors out before he was taken down.”
Haru smiles a bit. “He’ll be fine. He re-aggravated an old shoulder injury and will be out of commission for a while, but he’s stubborn, like Rin. He’ll be back to it before long.”
The nurse comes in then, softly apologizes for interrupting their conversation. “Your emergency contact is out in the lobby, Tachibana-sensei,” she explains, “And given the hour, we can only allow one visitor.”
Makoto thanks her and then looks back at Haru as she excuses herself from the room. “Kisumi,” he shares when he sees Haru’s question, and Haru nods.
“I should go, then.” He looks down, eyes gentling, when Makoto grabs his hand, and then he returns his gaze to Makoto’s. “I’ll still be right here. I’m not leaving Tokyo until you can come with me,” he promises, and then he leans down and lightly kisses Makoto’s forehead. “I’ll see you soon.” He brushes through Makoto’s bangs again and then slips out once Makoto lets him go.
Once out in the hall, he catches the nurse’s eye; she smiles and nods, picks up the phone. His own vibrates in his pocket and he slips it out to read the text, then makes a quick turn just past the nurse’s station and takes the short utility hall that dissects the wing of patient rooms to double back to the narrow equipment alcove just outside of Makoto’s, smirking a bit when Shigino breezes by him completely unaware.
Makoto opens his eyes. He feels bad because, this time, it is a struggle; he knows the drugs are pulling him under again, that neither they, nor his healing body, care that Kisumi just got there. He sees Kisumi’s face pale as he stops at his side, close enough now to truly see him, and his heart aches when Kisumi covers his mouth with his hand and calls his name again in a voice smaller than Makoto’s ever heard from him.
“It’s okay. I’ll be alright,” he assures, following it up with a promise when all Kisumi can do is nod tightly. Eventually Kisumi regains enough control to ask what happened; Makoto tells him that the guys from Obon had spotted and snagged him, that he’s heard it’s led to a bigger bust, but that’s all he knows. Maybe one day he’ll be able to tell his and Haru’s story fully but, for now, it’s enough.
Kisumi nods again, then gives a shaky sigh, runs his hand over his face. “Your mom’s on her way,” he informs. “She’s about an hour out on the Nozomi. Do you want me to call Kaito?” he asks after Makoto nods and thanks him.
Makoto feels a slight blip of anxiety through his haze, masks it with a slow blink, then regrets it. His eyes are really fighting him now, but he forces them open again; shakes his head. “He’s in the air; late flight in for meetings with his publisher tomorrow. I’ll text when I know he’s off his plane.”
“Text?” Kisumi softly laughs. “Makoto, you can barely talk.” He leans over, lightly kisses Makoto’s forehead.
“Your guy is good.” Haru turns from where he’d been quietly observing when he hears Rin’s voice behind him. “Not many could pull that off, on the spot and drugged.”
Haru smiles, a very small one. “The drugs are probably why he can. Makoto’s a terrible liar.”
“Or you just know his tells.”
“Shigino would, too.”
Rin’s eyes widen slightly. “Ah. The friend.” His brow furrows slightly. “How’d he get here so fast?”
“He’s Makoto’s emergency contact. How’s Yamazaki?”
Rin smirks a bit at the obvious subject change. Haru ignores it. “Better. Sleeping. Which is where you should be. Haru, c’mon. We both need it, and he’s about to be out for the count again anyway,” Rin urges when Haru just narrows his eyes at him. “We don’t even have to go out to my place. I snagged a room at Makoto’s hotel; we can catch good sleep and a shower, then be back first thing. And yes, I made sure there’re two beds this time,” he adds before Haru can do much more than narrow his gaze further.
“…Fine.” Haru takes a last glance into the room, sees Kisumi slip his hand from Makoto’s lax one to sit down, then steps out into the hall proper with Rin. An appreciative glance is given to his friend when, all business now, Rin steps up to the desk, introduces himself as the officer involved and leaves his contact information should anything change. The two of them walk out after, Haru ignoring the curious look he gets from the nurse who’d thought he’d left several minutes ago as he plays over the last several hours, the last several months, in his head. “Rin,” he calls once they’re in the elevator, and then, “I’ve decided. Whichever way this thing resolves, if it ever does, I’m out. He’s too important to me,” he says quietly, the near-miss still too close for him to feel awkward or embarrassed with the admission. “And after this…” Haru shakes his head. “Even if I eventually can reassume my name, I’ll keep Namiko Kaito’s life, use that name as my artist’s alias.”
“I thought you might.” Haru looks up at him as Rin bumps shoulders. “I’m happy for you, Haru.”
Haru thanks him with a small smile.
“So what was it? That made you decide,” Rin explains when Haru looks up at him again. “That you’re not Makoto’s emergency contact or Shigino’s little kiss?”
“…shut up, Rin.”
Chapter 23: Free
The next twenty-four hours go by in a blur: a combination of residual anesthetic, pain medication and activity. Makoto briefly wakes when his mom comes in, tries to comfort her when she starts to cry, but is just so sleepy that he leaves Kisumi to most of it. He vaguely remembers them leaving not long after, and then it’s just fleeting impressions of the nurses coming in several times throughout the night to check his vitals and his pain until the morning shift change. Lab draws, a breakfast tray, visits from his ENT and orthopod all before 8:30: by the time Haru slips into his room, Makoto’s about ready to nap again, though his lover’s arrival briefly wakes him back up.
The whole day is a bit of a dodging game from Haru’s point of view. He wants to be with Makoto, obviously, but he’s still trying to avoid most contact, especially since Rin’s still insistent on the disguise while he’s in Tokyo. However, it’s up for grabs if, with everything they both have going on personally and professionally, Haru is testier, or Rin, so—despite it being a pain in the ass—Haru doesn’t bother to fight it. Makoto tells him it’s fine, that he’s just glad to see him; assures that neither his mom nor Kisumi had questioned that they’d simply missed him as he’d come in between his meetings the day before, but Haru hates it. He knows what Makoto’s family means to him, knows that they’ve been eager to meet him since he and Makoto decided to tell them. And he hates that Makoto is having to lie for him on top of everything else, really hates that he can’t be openly supportive and at Makoto’s side like—as Makoto’s partner—he should be.
The next day starts out better. The hospitalist had switched Makoto to oral pain control from the pump the night before, which meant he could be put onto a routine vitals check, so there hadn’t been quite as much flurry. He wakes feeling much more rested and his mood improves further when his orthopod tells him he’s planning discharge the following day; that he can continue his convalescence in Iwatobi and may even be able to return to work if Konoe can provide assistance with the physical portions of his evaluations and therapy sessions—and allow Makoto time to attend his own.
Haru can tell the difference as soon as he walks in. Bruising and taped nose aside, Makoto is starting to look like his Makoto again, and the light in his eyes shifts Haru’s entire mood. “You must have gotten good news,” he says after they exchange hellos, and he lightly settles on the edge of the bed. Makoto grins and nods as he takes his hand and shares what the doctor had told him. Haru smiles. “I’m glad for you, Love.” He blinks as soon as it slips and then he colors and looks away. He doesn’t know why he’s tense, which makes him more tense. It’s Makoto, and even if he hates it, he wouldn’t laugh or be rude.
Makoto turns Haru’s gaze back with gentle fingers to his chin and then shakes his head. “Don’t be embarrassed. I like it. And you used it before. When I woke up… when everything came back to me,” he explains to the question in Haru’s eyes. “You called me love as you tried to help me through it. It did,” he shares with a soft, shy smile and a light brush of his thumb to Haru’s lower lip. It’s a vague memory for Haru now that Makoto’s brought it up, but he can’t bring himself to be bothered that it had slipped without him even knowing it, not with how Makoto’s looking at him in that way meant only for him, not with how the gentle press of Makoto’s lips to his soothes all the edges from the past forty-eight hours away as they very briefly reacquaint with each other’s taste. “I’ve missed that,” Makoto murmurs when they part. “I can’t wait to give you a proper one.”
The color in Haru’s cheeks heightens. Even after all this time it still amazes him how easily Makoto can say such things; what it does to him when he does. “Good thing you’re staying with me while you convalesce then,” he says, and he must not sound as awkward as he feels for how Makoto’s eyes light up again.
“Kai—sorry! Haru. Mm.”
It’s Haru’s turn to bring Makoto’s gaze back up with a gentle touch. “It’s okay,” he quietly sooths. “I know it’ll take some getting used to.” He leans in to steal another chaste kiss, and then his lips press softly when the announcement comes that visiting hours will soon start. “I should go.” He forces a small smile. “I’m sure your mother’s already in the lobby and waiting,” he says lightly. He knows that Kisumi had taken a train back to Iwatobi the night before.
There isn’t anything Makoto can offer Haru about this that he hasn’t already said, so he just nods and squeezes his hand; tells him he loves him, that he’ll see him later. Haru appreciates it, the lack of platitudes. He knows that Makoto is being sincere, but he doesn’t want to be placated right now. He’d almost feel better if Makoto was less understanding about it all. It would feed the part of him that feels it’s what he deserves.
With a light wave from the door, Haru steps into the hall, and then his hands slip into his pockets. As he passes through the lobby, he smirks slightly despite himself. He was right; Makoto’s mother is there. He recognizes her from photos Makoto has shared with him. The curve to his lips softens as her head tilts and she smiles to whomever she’s speaking to on the phone. Even if he hadn’t seen pictures, he would have known. The mannerism and smile are pure Makoto.
Not yet, dear, he hears her say as he passes her. Perhaps today. I hope so. You should see Makoto talk about him. He’s so in love with him, so happy… Haru’s lips press as the last wafts through the door after him like a taunt.
Makoto smiles when his mom come in; he lets her fuss over him a bit, and then tells her what the doctor had said that morning. He revels in her careful hug—there’s a part of him that will always be a mother’s boy, he thinks—and he nods when she asks if she can take a moment to send the news to his father. “You look tired,” she says gently after, and he promises he’ll nap after lunch. That seems to satisfy her, and she settles back into the chair again.
They both look over when they hear someone at the door, and Makoto’s heart thumps. “Ha—Kaito!” Haru offers a gentle smirk at the near miss and Makoto’s heart thuds again, because it’s Haru, with his rich, dark hair and ocean-blue eyes, no contacts, no disguise and, while Makoto will never ever bemoan the ruse Haru’s had to keep, there aren’t words for how much he realizes he’s missed seeing him.
Comprehension replaces the curiosity in Makoto’s mother’s eyes, and she stands as Haru approaches. “Kaito-kun, I’m so happy to finally meet you,” she greets warmly, and Haru makes a slight bow.
“Me too, Tachibana-san. I apologize that we missed each other yesterday. And please, I’d like it very much if you’d call me Haru.”
Makoto’s mouth drops, but he quickly recovers when he sees the question creep into his mom’s eyes and smile. “Namiko Kaito is Haru’s alias for his works. His name is actually Nanase Haru. Just, use Kaito if there’s anyone else around, please, Mom!”
“Makoto… are you jealous of Haru-kun’s fans?”
“Mom!” Makoto blurts with wide eyes, and Haru licks away his smirk as he meets Tachibana-san’s eyes across the bed.
“Haru! Oh, you’re both terrible,” he mutters as they both start to laugh, but his eyes are laughing as well, and his heart has never felt warmer.
Makoto’s mom drops her hand away from her mouth and lightly places it on Makoto’s shoulder. “Of course we’ll respect his privacy, Mako-kun,” she promises her son, and then, “Haru-kun, where is your family from?” she asks next with a slight tilt of her head after she’s seated again.
Haru smiles slightly. “Iwatobi. It’s why it was one of the places I chose to look when Tokyo became too much. And when I realized my grandmother’s house was available, the decision was fairly made for me.”
“I wondered!” She brings her hand up to softly laugh again, and Haru tips his head in question. “Mm-mm,” she assures with a shake of her head. “I was just thinking that, save for the haircut, you’ve hardly changed from the little boy I remember.” She laughs again and Haru figures that his expression must mirror Makoto’s shock.
“Mom,” Makoto recovers first, “You met Haru before?”
“Mm. And not just me, Makoto, though you likely don’t remember. You were both very young when Haru-kun’s family moved away, and you grieved so hard at Nanase-san’s funeral; I’m sure that memory is just a blur,” she says gently, but then she smiles again. “I do have a few pictures of you together as toddlers though. They came to us after Nanase-san passed. I could forward them to you if you want?”
Haru doesn’t know where the time goes after that. Conversation with Makoto’s mother flows as naturally as it does with her son, and they talk about almost everything. She tells him what she recalls of his early years and he talks to her a bit about his later life: how his family has done in the States, what he can about his college life and artist’s career, of his and Makoto’s story from his perspective. Makoto mostly listens with an expression of such pure, simple happiness that it makes Haru want to kiss him senseless, which is likely why he does talk so much. It’s not exactly an appropriate thought to have in front of his mother!
Makoto’s lunch tray comes as they’re talking a bit about Osaka and, once the dietician leaves, Makoto’s mom stands with a smile. “Makoto promised me that he’d nap after lunch and I’m sure you boys would like a few minutes to yourselves,” she explains before she leans down and kisses Makoto’s forehead. “I’ll be back for a bit between dinner and my train home, dear,” she promises, and then she turns to Haru after she straightens. “I’m so glad we finally got to meet,” she says, warmly clasping Haru’s hand between her own. Haru’s eyes widen slightly when she makes a shallow bow over it. “Take good care of my son, Haruka.”
Haru’s cheeks warm and he returns her bow. “It’s my honor to.” He lets his hand drop when she releases it; returns her wave when she pauses at the door before she steps out.
“Haruka?” Haru turns, instinctively wrinkles his nose, and Makoto laughs softly. “Haru it is, then. Though, Haruka is beautiful, too.”
Haru’s face heats again. “Eat your lunch, Makoto.”
About half through the tray, Makoto starts to falter. Haru bolsters him through it with promises of all of his favorites when they get home, and gentle threats that they may not let him go home if they think his appetite isn’t returning. Once he finally finishes it, Haru moves it to the sink for retrieval then pulls the chair close and takes his hand. “Sleep now, Makoto.” He smirks a bit. “Or I’ll tell your mom.”
“Haru!” But there’s sleepiness in the laughed protest too, and Haru knows it’s just a matter of time. “Ne, Haru?”
“Was it really okay? To tell my mom your name?”
“Mm. My parents know about the situation. Even if I can’t tell yours anything else, it’s only right they at least know that since we’re together.”
“Together.” Makoto’s hand tightens through Haru’s and he smiles, sleepy and sweet. “Let’s be together forever, Haru.”
Haru’s lips part softly, breath and words stolen away by a rush of warmth that leaves a tightness in his throat. God, how he loves this man. “Mm.” He wants to say more, to tell Makoto of his decision, but Makoto’s fingers ease against his and it seems he’s finally dozing off—until Rin comes in, practically taking the door from its track as he pulls it shut behind him. “Rin!” Haru hisses as Makoto jerks awake and then softly groans.
“Sorry! Sorry!” Rin rushes to say, and then, after he catches his breath, “Damn it, Haru, you really need to learn to answer your phone for someone other than Makoto.”
“I do,” he says coolly. “I just ignore you.” Rin gapes, and Haru smirks—at least, until he hears Makoto’s softly chastising Haru. “Sorry,” he mutters after a moment, and the light squeeze Makoto gives him as he slips their hands together again makes it a little easier to ignore Rin’s smirk in turn. “Anyway, what is it?”
“Ah, right!” Suddenly, Rin’s lit with that nervous excitement again. “Haru, the Fushimi clan’s been taken out!”
“…what?” Out of all the questions that rush through his head it’s the only one he can manage and, once again, he feels like he can barely breathe.
“An explosion decimated their compound early this morning, and a second fire razed their center of ops in the city. And Haru, listen!”
Rin puts his phone on speaker and pulls up an audio file; Haru’s blood runs hot and cold as he listens to the coolly delivered message from the head of the Imakaya-kai offering his condolences for the loss of life in the two tragic incidents before getting to what Haru knows is the true purpose of his call as soon as he hears it. … If any of the Fushimi clan did survive, we hope that they understand that the Imakaya will not be able to provide assistance or absorb any of their interests as they do not align with ours.
“That sends the message pretty damned clear that you’re safe!” Rin crows.
Haru can only nod. He feels faint for the weight that’s been lifted from him. In the deepest, quietest places of his mind, he’d never believed it would happen. That he’d ever truly be free again.
“Haru.” He looks up at Makoto’s call; sees nothing but joy in his eyes. Haru falls in love with him even more because he hasn’t told Makoto what he’d decided yet but, to Makoto, it doesn’t matter. All that does is that Haru’s out of danger, free to live again, whichever life he would choose. “I’m so glad,” Makoto says, voice slightly thick with it, as he squeezes Haru’s hand again.
Haru gives him a soft, slightly shaky smile. “Me too.”
“This doesn’t change your decision at all, does it.”
Haru blinks. For a second, he’d forgotten Rin was there, and he glances up; colors slightly at the affectionate resignation in Rin’s eyes.
“You didn’t tell him?”
“I was about to when you burst in!” Haru snaps in response to Rin’s incredulous tone, and then he turns his attention back to Makoto. “I told Rin yesterday that, no matter what happened with the Fushimi ring, I wasn’t coming back. Even if it broke and I could come out of protection, I wouldn’t be returning to the agency. I was just waiting for the proper t— Makoto?” he cuts himself off in concern when he sees tears on Makoto’s cheeks.
Makoto shakes his head, gives a tremulous laugh; closes his eyes before another can escape. “It’s nothing. I’m just so happy, Haru.” His smile widens as Haru leans in to wipe the bit of moisture away. “Now was perfect.”
Haru’s lips curve up slightly and he moves his fingers to brush through Makoto’s bangs, then lightly stroke down his cheek before leaning down to kiss him. Rin clears his throat and Haru freezes, then straightens to give Rin another glare.
Rin ignores it. “So no, then?” he asks softly, and Haru nods.
“No. Tell the chief I’m done, that I’ll come in tomorrow to report formally.” He feels Makoto’s hand go lax, looks back over, smiles a bit when he sees that finally, Makoto’s asleep. “I’m not coming back. My life is with him, in Iwatobi.”
Chapter 24: Tadaima
Well, this is it. Not going to lie; even with another story in the works, I'm a little sad to see this one end. I had a lot of fun bringing the boys into this AU, even if some of it was hard (I'm sorry for hurting you, Makoto, my best of the best boys EVER!), and it's probably one of my favorite fics that I've done. So thank you to everyone that left kudos or comments, and especially to those who stuck with me to the end. I write for me, to tell the stories I want to, but it adds a whole different level of pleasure to my experience knowing that I've brought some fun and enjoyment to others. So thank you again. ♥
“There. That’s the last of it.”
Makoto looks up from where he’s seated on the floor as a final box is put next to the one that he’s going through.
“I still say you’re crazy, though.”
Makoto closes his lips from where they’d parted to offer thanks; instead, he smiles and tips his head slightly. “One expert to another, hm?” he offers lightly, and Sousuke snorts in amusement.
“Yeah, I know I don’t have room to talk.”
Makoto chuckles as he stands and steps over to his friend. “Nope.”
Makoto’s expression turns sheepish when Rin calls in from the door. Sousuke just shrugs. “It’s what he gets for creeping on our conversation,” he deadpans. Rin sputters, Sousuke smirks and Makoto can’t help but laugh.
“You two! I swear, nobody would think you’re together, the way you go on at each other.”
Rin huffs. “Yeah, well; we can’t all be sickeningly obvious like you and Haru.” He smirks when Makoto goes a deep red, then he flashes a toothy grin at Sousuke. “Guess my work here’s done.”
Sousuke shakes his head at his partner’s antics. He crosses to the door, spins him around, drapes an arm over his shoulders. “Say goodbye, Rin—before Nanase comes up and gives you hell for flustering Makoto again.”
“Rin. Sousuke.” The couple turns when Makoto calls out and Makoto gives them a warm smile. “Thank you for your help. Let us know when you can get back to Iwatobi.”
“Shouldn’t be too long,” Sousuke adds. “This thing can’t seem to go more than a few weeks without needling Nanase in person,” he says with a roll of his eyes that makes Makoto laugh and Rin elbow him sharply in the side.
“Well, I know a good realtor if you ever decide you want to stay,” Makoto teases, though he doesn’t miss the brief, thoughtful look that glints through Sousuke’s eyes before he turns his head again.
“Mm. See you soon.” Still smiling, Makoto sits back down and takes the last few things out of the box he’d been working on. He feels bad, having been relegated to sorting and putting away what he’s able while the others did the actual move, but he’s getting there. He regains more strength and use every day and both Konoe—who insisted on overseeing his rehabilitation himself—and his orthopod in Tokyo have told him that he should make a full recovery. No deficits.
Truth told, the physical part has been fairly easy. Painful at times, but not unbearable; he struggles the most with his patience in that regard. Psychologically, it’s been another story. The incident has played on the worst of the fears he’s carried with him since the thing in the depths of the ocean had snatched Tamura-san, and the others, away all those years ago. The nightmares had started a couple of nights after he’d been discharged, once life had started to settle back into some sort of normal routine. They are violent: a terrifying mixture of what had actually happened and every single fear of what might that had run through his brain that night, interspersed with images of Haru and his family, broken and grieving over what remained of him once the criminals were done. Thank god for Haru, for his insistence that Makoto convalesce with him. He doesn’t know how he would have gotten through without him to talk him down and then hold him, sit up with him, tell him it was alright—tell him there wasn’t anything to be ashamed of the mornings after.
That shame tries to prickle through Makoto now and he can feel its heat in his cheeks. He acknowledges it then starts to turn it around like his therapist has suggested; thinks about everything positive he’s come through the incident with. Haru’s freedom. His own life. The end of the ring. His new friends. And, by the time he’s finished sorting that box, the embarrassment, and incident, have shifted to the back of his mind again where he knows they’ll eventually stay, largely dormant and controllable, like his other fears.
He just needs to afford himself some patience there as well.
Makoto breaks down the empty box and sets it with the others, gives a small shake of his head when he pulls the last closer. After the first couple of weeks, Haru had asked how he’d feel about staying, and he colors, a gentle arousal lightly teasing at his abdomen as he recalls how that particular conversation had ended. He’d called Kisumi the next day and had offered to cover the apartment until he found another lessor. Kisumi had laughed him off, but he had at least consented to Makoto paying for the next month since he hadn’t been sure when they would be able to arrange the help to move him. Now it’s done, though it feels like he’d just moved into the studio yesterday. And it’s slightly surreal, the thought that he’ll be living in a house that he’s as familiar with as he was the one in which he’d grown up. It’s a bit like coming home a second time, moving into Nanase-san’s, only better, because Haru is there. Then again, anywhere Haru is would be home—and then Makoto softly laughs as he thinks of the pretty blush and shy glance away he’d earn if he said that to Haru.
He thinks he might.
Still grinning softly, he opens the box, makes a soft sound of acknowledgement when he recognizes what it is: the last of the contents from his wardrobe shelf and a hodgepodge of mittens and gloves, socks without mates (his mom says they’re good for cleaning!) and bits from a couple of old rig kits that he probably should get rid of. As he starts to sort through and match the winter gear to place it with Haru’s in the cupboard near the genkan, he hears a crinkle of paper; brow furrowing slightly, he digs a little deeper and pulls it out. Makoto smiles then softly laughs as he smooths his fingers over it.
“What are you looking at, Love?”
Makoto’s heart warms and his smile broadens as Haru’s arms come around him from behind and his chin lands on his shoulder. The endearment falls so easily from Haru’s lips now, but it still pierces him in the best way, every time. The only name more precious to him is Haru’s; Makoto doesn’t think there could be anything sweeter than being able to call him by his given name. “A fortune slip,” he says, and he hands it back to Haru. “I pulled it that first day we met, just before we ran into each other on the stairs.”
“When you were stalking me.”
Makoto chuckles and shakes his head; rolls his eyes. “Yes, Haru. When I was stalking you,” he drones, which earns him a softly breathed laugh across his ear and a pleasant shiver down his spine.
Makoto’s smile fades a bit as he recalls that day in August that he’d been so miserable and lost. “Mm. I should have put it someplace safer than my closet,” is all he says, and then he smiles a bit again. “Doesn’t seem to have affected the outcome though.” He takes the great blessing back, then leans into Haru, kisses the corner of his mouth. “I couldn’t ask for a greater blessing than you, Haru-chan.” He tacks on the honorific to try and lessen the weight of his words and Haru’s subsequent discomfort, but then his brow arches slightly and he softly chuckles when he sees the bright pink flare in Haru’s cheeks. Maybe he’s found a nickname after all.
“Don’t call me that,” Haru protests, and Makoto’s smile widens. He recognizes that tone, and Haru’s blush deepens, Haru knowing that Makoto is onto him.
“Haru-chan,” he says again, letting his voice go slightly deeper as he noses at Haru’s cheek, and then his eyes widen with a forced-out “Oof!” when, in the next second, Haru has him pinned on his back on the floor.
“Embarrassing,” Haru mutters, and then he leans down and kisses him hard; still holding the fortune, Makoto brings his good arm up to wrap around Haru’s back as he opens up for him, lets Haru take him away from everything but what it truly means to be home. “Okaeri, Makoto,” he breathlessly murmurs against Makoto’s mouth several moments later.
Makoto smiles up at him, eyes softly shining. “Tadaima, Haru.”