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The atmosphere between Haru and Makoto has changed recently, and Haru isn’t sure if he likes it very much.

It’s not unpleasant, per say, but he can’t understand why.

Where Makoto was once merely a shape at his side, never standing out in his vision, he is now a prominent feature that Haru can’t help but notice. Where his presence used to be a gentle buzz in the background of Haru’s senses, his warmth now spreads over him whenever he is nearby, and Haru feels a sense of coldness when alone. Suddenly Haru has become hyper-sensitive around Makoto, and he can’t understand why.

At first he dismisses it as troublesome. A nuisance. He doesn’t want to be held back by strange feelings – he just wants to be free.

Of course, it begins to get on his nerves after a while, and he can no longer ignore it.

He blames Makoto.

The way he looks at him – with those eyes filled with an everlasting kindness and selflessness, those eyes that show so much meaning. It isn’t like how everyone else looks at him, not even when he’s swimming – when he apparently looks most ‘beautiful’. It isn’t Nagisa’s eyes of energy and loyalty and nor is it Rei’s eyes of admiration and calculation. Even Rin’s gaze is completely incomparable – filled with an everlasting challenge, daring him to give him a good fight.

The way Makoto looks at him is so different – surely not the way a best friend should be looking at him. But even though he can see this, he has no idea what this means.

For once, he can’t read Makoto’s eyes at all. And that annoys him.

It’s troublesome.

He thinks for a while on it – a few weeks, that is – and finally gets his answer one night as he walks home from school with Makoto.

As usual, Makoto chats animatedly, Haru only half-listening as he lets his mind wander to other things – such as the hand dangling so near to his own, swaying gently to the beat of their pace. Its warmth infects Haru’s skin when their knuckles brush for a split second, evaporating a second later. He misses the warmth.

Next time their hands brush, it’s fully intentional. But the warmth leaves him too quickly, so he brushes them a third time.

Except this time, Makoto catches his hand, interlocking their fingers without a single pause in his latest anecdote, as though this action is second-nature.

It is second-nature, really, and Haru is suddenly grateful that Makoto can read him so easily.

That familiar warmth creeps through his veins, injecting a poison into him that somehow slows his brain, stops his thinking. He stops questioning the atmosphere and focuses on that warmth.

It isn’t long before they reach Haru’s house, and his brain wakes from its sedation. It seems to shrink back as it sees his house, dark and cold, knowing he’ll be alone there, without the familiar warmth he seems to take for granted.

He doesn’t want that.

They reach the door, and their hands separate, cutting off the warmth he knows will last only for a few more minutes within him. Makoto smiles and bids him goodnight, turns away and makes for the stairs to his house.

Haru reaches out subconsciously.

He grasps Makoto’s arm.

“Ah- Haru?”

Haru is paralysed by Makoto’s gaze. Suddenly, his words have left him.

“Do you want me to stay for a while?” he asks, and Haru once more blesses Makoto’s ability to read his eyes.

He nods. Makoto smiles.

They go into Haru’s house, which somehow seems much warmer when Makoto is present. He phones his parents to let them know where he is before joining Haru once more.

They share a fairly uneventful dinner before retiring to Haru’s room, where they work on their homework.

Haru isn’t interested in maths. He’s more interested in Makoto’s warmth, how it entices him to move closer, teasing him with the knowledge that he can’t do that.

He realises that he craves that warmth. He craves that warmth beside him, holding his hand, embracing his body, caressing his lips-

Haru finally figures out his troublesome feelings, and he’s sure Makoto feels the same – though he is seemingly oblivious to their existence.

Even if he knows of the feelings, he won’t act on them – Makoto is too selfless to do something that he feels would cause Haru such trouble.

And yet he subconsciously gives Haru the feelings that trouble him in the first place.

Haru sighs quietly. He can be so troublesome at times.

Not that he minds.

Putting aside his homework, Haru lets his eyes fall on Makoto. He is wearing his glasses – ‘his eyes must be getting worse,’ he notes as Makoto squints at the paper. His lashes are surprisingly long, almost brushing against the lenses, giving them a dust covering. His jawline looks sharper with the accessory – somehow he looks older. Haru likes it, but prefers him without – he likes seeing the crinkles in the corners of his eyes when he smiles, and it’s much harder to read what he’s thinking through a layer of glass.

His eyes travel down, over his nose to his lips. They look soft and warm – he wonders if they taste like their dinner (fried mackerel, in case you were wondering). He looks at his cheeks, which turn pink under his gaze.

He looks back up to his eyes and sees Makoto staring back at him. He averts his own eyes, trying to hide his own blush – which is very faint, but feels like fire.

His cravings only increase as time moves on, and Haru knows he needs to silence them somehow. He knows what he wants to do – if only he can muster up the courage to do it.

“Makoto,” he finally says.

Makoto makes an answering noise as he looks up from his homework.

“I need to do something.”

Makoto’s eyebrows furrow. “What do you mean, Haru?”

He moves closer, scrutinising his face. “Take off your glasses.”

Makoto does so, confusion evident all over his face. “Haru…?”

His voice tails off as Haru moves even closer, kneeling only inches away. The proximity between them decreases, and Makoto’s warmth reaches out to Haru. They’re touching foreheads now. Makoto is as confused as ever. Haru tries to speak through his eyes – he’s sure if he uses his voice, it will fail on him. He only just has enough courage left to do this, so he doesn’t want to mess it up.

He can’t tell if Makoto understands, as he closes his eyes, tilting his chin up so his lips meet Makoto’s.

It only lasts for a second.

“Haru…” Makoto breathes, eyes wide with surprise. They are still only centimetres away from touching, and Haru still craves the warmth of Makoto’s lips. Their eyes hold a silent conversation – ‘Is it okay?’ ‘Yes, go ahead.’ – before Haru moves in once more, confidence increased by Makoto’s reaction.

Kissing Makoto is like a burning candle. His lips give off a gentle warmth, moving steadily against Haru’s, with a few jumps here and there from inexperience. It’s not deep and passionate, but chaste and sweet. They move slowly, unsure of how to kiss, unsure of the other person’s desires. They don’t open their mouths, not yet, not whilst they’re still so tentative. It lasts longer than the first – much longer, about a minute longer – and then they part, breathing slowly and gazing into each other’s eyes.

Green eyes still hold surprise, realisation. ‘I love you.’

‘I know.’ Blue eyes answer, before their lids close once more.

They finish only when Makoto’s phone buzzes, his parents telling him to head home. He smiles apologetically.

Haru sighs. How troublesome.