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Side Crawl

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When Haruka got to the usual streetlamp, Makoto wasn't there. Haruka glanced around; it wasn't as if Makoto hadn't been late before. Something in the air felt different, though. Haruka wasn't sure if he was remembering correctly, but he hadn't seen Makoto very much over the weekend. Perhaps Makoto was avoiding him, he considered, but quickly waved that thought away. Makoto wouldn't do something like that without consulting him first.

Haruka pulled his phone out a little bit later. It had been fifteen minutes. Makoto had never been more than fifteen minutes late before.

Haruka walked back home.

He waited until he felt it was a reasonable time for the others to be awake. Breakfast was a well enough distraction. When it was about eight a.m., he dialed Rei right away.

"Rei," said Haruka. "Do you know where Makoto is?"

"Makoto senpai? Ah," said Rei, and there was some shuffling. "I'm at his place now, actually."

Haruka perked up from eating his mackerel. "Are you? What's wrong?"

"He's sick, actually."

Haruka dropped his chopsticks and ran.


"I didn't want to worry you."

Makoto looked sheepish in his bed, and also awfully stupid.

Haruka muttered, "Idiot," and went to his bedside.

"Rei's just been looking after me for the past couple of days," said Makoto. "You're stressed out enough from training for nationals – we all are, but – " He slumped his shoulders.

Haruka said, "I live next door. Why did you ask Rei to come all the way over here to take care of you?"

"Nagisa's busy studying and I've been done," said Rei. "I don't have much else to do on the weekends."

Haruka closed his mouth so he could grind his teeth together without either of them looking at him worriedly. Makoto sniffed and coughed and Haruka felt his expression soften. Rei put a wet towel over Makoto's forehead.

"I'll take it from here," Haruka decided, moving toward Rei's spot. "Rei, go home and help Nagisa study."

"I don't want you to get sick, too," Makoto said to him.

Rei said, "Hey, what If I get sick?"

They paid him no mind. Haruka said, "I'm fine," and felt Makoto's cheek, which was warm. "You're burning up. What have you eaten?"

"Soup," said Makoto.

"I'll make you mackerel soup."

Rei almost fell on the floor at he was walking out. Makoto said, "No… no, it's fine."

Haruka said, "Thank you, Rei. I'm sorry for any trouble that could've been avoided if Makoto called me, instead."

They both ignored Makoto's indignant protests. Rei adjusted his glasses and said, "It's fine. I'm glad to help a friend," before walking out.

When Haruka turned back around, Makoto smiled at him. "I'm glad you're here to help me, too," he said.

Haruka muttered, "Yeah, just call me first."


He made sure Makoto went to sleep right after all this – he didn't get stressed out too easily, unless it came to things that involved Haruka, he knew, so Makoto might've been a little stressed about that encounter.

Haruka went to Makoto's kitchen and looked through the refrigerator. No mackerel. He shook his head.

"Haruka-chan!" Ren and Ran latched onto his legs.

Haruka said, "I told you not to call me that."

They ignored him. "Haruka-chan," said Ren. "Is nii-san going to be okay?"

"He'll be fine."

"There was that strange boy who was over yesterday!" said Ran. "Who was that?"

"A friend and member of our swim team." Haruka pondered through the fridge, and decided to grab some vegetables.

They pestered him with questions which Haruka either ignored or answered quickly. As he made to go upstairs, Makoto's mom latched onto his arm.

"Thank you for looking after Makoto for us," she said. "It's been busy around here, with Ren and Ran and work."

"I'm sure you've been looking after him as best as you can," Haruka said. This was the most he'd ever spoken to Makoto's family in several years, but he supposed before when Makoto had been well he'd done most of the talking.

Makoto's mother patted him on the cheek and let him go back to work.

Haruka went upstairs about a half an hour later with a steaming bowl of hot soup. Makoto's eyes were closed, but as Haruka approached, he saw Makoto's eyes open into half slits.

"You don't have any mackerel, but I found sea bass," he said. "I hope it's good enough."

Makoto smiled. "It's fine," he said, getting up. He took the bowl from Haruka. "Thank you."

Haruka sat at the food of the bed and watched as Makoto ate. When Makoto was done, he said, "Thank you, Haru," with big sleepy eyes.

Haruka put his hand on Makoto's forehead. "Have you been taking any medicine?"

"Oh, uh, no," said Makoto, and sniffed. His nose sounded bad. "Rei says I probably just have a cold."

Haruka nodded. "Eat and sleep well."

Makoto lay down again. Haruka thought he was just going to stay like that and talk; but a second later and Makoto fell asleep.

Haruka leaned in and pressed his lips on Makoto's forehead, before leaving him alone.


That evening, Makoto's mother called to let him know that Makoto had awoken and was calling for him. Haruka went over, bringing the mackerel soup he made in his own home, this time.

Makoto scrunched his nose and said, "I don't understand how you eat this all the time," but finished it all the same.

"Feel better?" Haruka was sitting in Makoto's desk chair.

Makoto nodded and sniffed. "You know what they say," he said. "Sleep is the best medicine."

Haruka gave a small nod. "Do you want me to stay the night?"

"Oh – no!" Makoto waved him off. "It's fine."

"Your mother said that you were calling for me when you woke up."

"That's because you were with me earlier. But it's fine."

Haruka stared at him. Then he went to Makoto's closet, and reached for the top shelf to grab spare blankets and pillows.

"What – Haru, what are you doing?"

"Getting things so I can stay over tonight," said Haruka.

"You can't sleep on the floor!"

"I'll sleep in the chair." Haruka was already setting things up near Makoto's desk. "You need to get better as soon as possible so we can go to practice again. You know we missed out on one, already."

"You haven't been going to swim practices because of me?"

Haruka shrugged.

Makoto asked, "What about school?"

"Boring. I didn't go."

Makoto flailed.

"How can you say it's boring if you didn't go?"


Rin dropped by the next day, said, "I heard from Nagisa that you're not doing well, Makoto. Hope you get better."

"Thanks." Makoto smiled from his pillow. "And then we'll catch up with your training regime for nationals."

"Hm? Ah right, swimming," said Rin. "I'm sure you'll train hard enough to catch up with Sousuke.  Nothing to worry about."

He sat down in the chair Haruka had slept in the night before. Makoto coughed, and his stomach growled.

"I'll make breakfast," Haruka offered.

Rin said, "Get me something too!"

"You can walk, get your own."

Haruka could hear Rin huff as he walked out. A moment later Rin had followed him into the hallway, looking resentful that he had to get his own food.

They passed by Ren and Ran on their way down. Makoto's mother seemed surprised and said, "Here early?"

Haruka shook his head. "Slept over," he replied.


Makoto's mother cast a glance over him and Rin, before leaving to the living room. Rin said, "How long do you plan on staying here?"

"As long as it takes until Makoto gets better," Haruka replied.

Rin leaned against the counter and tilted his head. "And then what are you going to do?"

Haruka didn't look away from the refrigerator. "Go back to the normal routine."

Rin continued observing him. After a while, he said, "Alright," and then took a little bit of the breakfast Haruka had made before leaving. He said, "See you later," on the way out.

Haruka brought the food upstairs, but Makoto had passed out again.

He put the tray on Makoto's desk, and waited for him to wake up.


Makoto whined, "I'm bored and there's nothing to do. Can't I just go downstairs and – "

"No," Haruka interrupted, which was a first. "You have to stay in bed and rest until you get better. Strenuous activity would be bad for you."

Makoto pouted and Haruka felt tempted to relent. After a bit, Makoto sighed and lay back down.

"I guess the two of us do take care of each other, don't we," he grumbled.

Haruka's stomach had flutters that Rei would be proud of, but that was nothing new.

"Mm," he agreed.

"What've you been doing?" asked Makoto, craning his neck to look at him proper.

"Read your books." Haruka gestured toward Makoto's desk. "Did some homework."

"You know that you'll have to come up with an excuse why you weren't at school, when we go back," said Makoto. "I mean, I can say that I was sick, but…"

"And I can say that I was making sure you got better."

"I'm not sure if that will work."

"Why not?"

"People will probably think…" Makoto blushed, which was inexplicable since it didn't seem related to his sickness. Haruka started to ask if he was okay but Makoto went on with, "Well, we arrive to school together all the time, so they probably think we live together."

Haruka shrugged. "So?"

Makoto did that not-sick blush thing again. "Never mind," he muttered.

Haruka stared at him for a moment. He didn't understand. "How are you feeling?"

"Like there's nothing for me to do." Makoto shuffled in his bed. "And a bit sleepy, I guess."

"You should go to sleep," said Haruka. "I'll join you. Your chair is uncomfortable."

"Ah," said Makoto. His face was pink again. "What?"

"Sleeping in your bed would be more comfortable than in your chair." Haruka had already made his way across the bedroom to turn off the light.

Makoto said, stuttering, "Y-Yeah, I guess that'll be all right."

The room went dark. Haruka almost tripped on the chair trying to find Makoto's bed. Then his hand found Makoto's body, and Makoto laughed and said, "Oops, sorry, that's me."

He shifted a bit until there was enough room for Haruka to lean on his side. Makoto seemed like he was trying to shift away even more, but that seemed inconvenient for the both of them. Haruka put his hand on Makoto's middle and said, "I don't know what else to do with my arms."

"Okay." Makoto's breathing was shallow.

Haruka tugged him closer until he felt comfortable. His insides and outsides were warm. He could feel himself getting drowsier, too.

Makoto was unresponsive to his touch.

"Goodnight, Mako," he murmured, and pressed his lips to the back of Makoto's head this time. He felt like Makoto might've moved or said something to him, but sleep took Haruka away.


"Ah, I feel much better!"

Makoto was back at school, stretching and beaming.

Nagisa ran over and hugged him at his middle. "I missed you, Mako-chan!"

"I missed you too, Nagisa." Makoto laughed and ruffled Nagisa's hair. "I didn't miss Haru, though, he stayed with me the whole time."

"Rei can do the same when I get sick," Nagisa said eagerly. "We live almost as close as you guys do!"

"You wouldn't get sick," Rei commented. "You ate all those candies the basketball club had given to us, while they had all been infected with the flu, and didn't cough once."

"What can I say." Nagisa proudly put his hands on his hips. "My immune system is amazing."

Haruka watched with a faint smile as they walked toward the school together.

Makoto stuck his hand out to him and said, "Coming, Haru?"

Haruka stared; this was new. Makoto was waiting for him, though, and Haruka couldn't fail him. So he took Makoto's hand, and Makoto led them into the school. He didn't let go until they arrived in their second year classroom and had to take their separate seats. He smiled at Haruka sheepishly and apologized. Haruka didn't know what he was apologizing for.

He felt those Rei-approved butterflies in his stomach again.


They ran Thursday mornings, too. When Haruka got to the lamppost, Makoto was there this time, thank goodness.

"You're not sick anymore," Haruka said, as he tightened his shoelaces.

Makoto grinned at him. "Thanks to you," he said.

They started jogging down the road. Makoto's pace was steady with his. Somehow they always seemed to naturally find a balance together without planning it. Haruka could hear his heartbeat in his ears, the only sound in the early morning his and Makoto's panting.

Makoto broke the silence. "You know you… staying around me while I was sick." He paused like he expected Haruka to say something, even though he didn't ask a question.

Then he continued, "You didn't have to do all that."

Haruka shrugged. "I wanted to. You're my best friend."

"Well," Makoto seemed at a lost for words.

They turned the street corner. Makoto said, "I, um, was surprised. At your dedication, I suppose."

"You would've done the same for me."

"I," Makoto chuckled, and then, "Yeah. Uh. Can we stop?"

"Are we going too fast?" Haruka asked.

Makoto shook his head, and they slowed. "Haru," he said. "I want you to know something, that I – ah, I'm not sure how you feel about me – "

"You're my best friend," Haruka repeated.

"I know how you feel about me," Makoto corrected himself. "I – you're my best friend too. I just, ah, feel a little more. Is all." His cheeks were pink.

Haruka furrowed his eyebrows. "Eh?"

Makoto rushed in and pressed his mouth against Haruka's, fleetingly. "I feel that way," he said, and then, "I like you."

The flutters in Haruka's chest intensified, and his eyes flickered to Makoto's mouth. Everything made sense. "I feel the same," he said, wanting Makoto to be closer. "I like you too."

"Oh." An expression of mild surprised passed over Makoto's face, but only briefly. It softened into a smile. "I'd hoped so," he said. "And thought so."

Haruka stepped forward and pressed his lips against Makoto's this time. Makoto seemed to like it, and no other parts of their bodies were touching before Makoto grabbed Haruka's shoulders and brought him closer. A thrill of pleasure shot through Haruka.

He pulled away when he felt a tickling on the inside of his nose. Makoto's hands were still on his arms when he sneezed.

"Ah," said Haruka. "I think you got me sick."

Makoto cried out, "What a cliché!" but Haruka didn't mind at all. He was sort of looking forward to the next few days of Makoto taking care of him.