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Hello? Is it me you're looking for?

Chapter Text

It was late, and the headache between Makoto’s eyes had been growing steadily all night. The plain cubicle felt smaller every hour and Makoto could swear he felt his brain cells wilting. He glared at the silent telephone but it remained cheerfully unmoved. He scratched at the hair trapped underneath his headset and sighed.

It was one of the long nights.

Makoto had been a volunteer at his university’s help hotline for a couple months, ever since Nagisa had shoved the ‘Help Wanted’ flyer practically up his nostrils. “You’d be PERFECT for it, Mako-chan!! You need to get involved in something on campus!” he had gushed once Makoto was able to take a step back and actually understand what was going on. And, whether by luck or Nagisa’s unexpectedly accurate intuition, Makoto had found that he enjoyed it. Much more than he had expected.

In retrospect, he had always preferred listening to talking.

The hotline was advertised as a “Safe and Secure Stress-reliever” for overwhelmed students. Since first walking in and being directed to take one of the “Support Seats”, Makoto had listened to students talk about everything from exam pressure to identity crises to family problems. He had found a sort of peaceful satisfaction in helping his fellow classmates. Most of the time all they needed was a friendly ear or a word of encouragement, which he was more than happy to give. There were tougher times too, when Makoto felt tears prick at his eyes and close his throat, but he trained himself to remain steadfast and be an anchor to those who might need him.

It was hard work. He acknowledged it took a toll on him. But the students that called him had seen so much trouble that his heart ached to help. It was the least he could do.

This night, however, was turning out to be a slow one. Dead, in fact. Makoto’s shift had started at midnight, and at 2:26 AM he had received a grand total of no calls. Makoto pinched the bridge of his nose in an attempt to relieve some of his headache. It didn’t work. He blinked at the telephone, willing it to ring. Posters saying things like “Each Student is Special!” and “Speak the Stress away!” were pasted to the walls above him. Makoto raised an eyebrow at “Silence isn’t Stupid! Be Supportive!” The corner of his mouth twitched up in amusement. Someone had gotten a little trigger-happy with the ‘s’ key.

Makoto glanced back at the phone. Volunteers weren’t allowed to bring books as a preventative measure to avoid distraction while assisting callers. His mind wandered to the stack of psychology textbooks waiting for him on his desk back home. He still had to draft his proposal for Research Methods, not to mention sort through all his Behavioral Studies notes to prepare for the exam next week, and before long Makoto’s eyes drifted shut as his mental task list dissolved into thoughts of maybe I’ll get three hours of sleep instead of two, sleep is nice… yeah…

BEEEEEEP-BEEEEEEP-BEEEEEEEEEEEEEP

Makoto yelped, slamming his hand down in the hope of hitting his alarm only to remember he was not in bed and the ringing was in fact the telephone THE TELEPHONE-!

He scrambled to hit the connect button and nervously adjusted his headset. “Hel—hello? Yes, hello?” he yelled, voice cracking on the first try. He cleared his throat and launched into the standardized opener, “You’ve reached the Student Help Hotline, how can I help you today—I mean, tonight! Tonight? Wait, what time is it? Oh it’s only 2:34, that’s still tonight. Or is that just really early morning? Actually nevermind.” Makoto’s face burned as he felt himself ramble. One of his bad habits when he got embarrassed.

He waited for a response, but only heard something that may have been a huff of air. Maybe. “Hello? Is someone alright? Wait, no—is someone there and are you alright?” Makoto asked, feeling more and more awkward as a blush crept up his cheekbones. He must be more tired than he thought.

“Are you always this articulate? Or are you just bad at this?”

Makoto blinked. The voice on the other end was male, slightly low in pitch, and sounded like its owner was smiling slightly. How he could tell, Makoto wasn’t sure. The small chuckle that followed affirmed the thought.

“Excuse me?” Makoto asked dumbly.

“Or you probably just woke up or something” the voice said while Makoto spluttered in the background, “Nope, that’s definitely it.”

“I was not sleeping.” Makoto managed to get out. “I just, you know, they only schedule one person here at nights and it’s been a while since I spoke to someone-“

“Mmm.” The voice interrupted, clearly unimpressed. Makoto scowled.

“Well. It really doesn’t matter. But you—what can I help you with tonight?” he asked, voice smoothly transitioning to a gentler tone. It wouldn’t help anyone if he continued to be flustered.

“Wow, you are good at this. Could have had me fooled.”

Makoto’s headache spiked and he massaged his temples roughly. “I’m here to listen to you. What’s on your mind?”

“School. Exams. Stress. The usual sort of things.” The voice said noncommittally. He almost sounded… bored?

“Anything in particular that would like to talk about?”

“No.”

Makoto took a deep breath through his nose and timed his exhale. “Nothing you’ve been thinking about that jumps out?”

“I want to go for a swim. Does that count?”

It was everything Makoto could do to keep from smacking himself in the forehead. “Sure. Why don’t you go for a swim then?”

“Pool’s closed.” He sounded deeply upset about this fact.

“It’ll open again tomorrow. You’ll be able to swim then.”

“I’m awake now.”

“And when you go to sleep, the pool will be there when you wake up.” Makoto sighed. He needed more coffee before he could deal with things like this.

“You don’t get it.”

“I’m sure you’d feel better about it after some sleep.”

“Easier said than done” the voice said quietly. Makoto straightened in his chair. This was something he could work with.

“You can’t sleep?”

“Mm.”

“Is there something wrong?”

“Mm.”

“Are you too stressed to sleep?”

“Mm.”

“What’s been causing your stress?”

“You know, you’re really persistent.” Makoto blinked.

“What?”

“The others usually get sick of me by now.”

“The other… volunteers?” Makoto asked, voice softening, “You’ve called this line before?”

“Mm.” Makoto fell silent. He ran through the other volunteers in his mind, snorting a bit as he pictured the fiery-tempered Rin trying to talk with this guy. He easily saw Rin cutting him off, claiming the ‘caller refusal to cooperate’ excuse. Sousuke probably did something similar too.

Makoto realized the line had been quiet for a while. Words stewed around in his mouth, none sounding like the correct thing to say.

“…mphffttf” A low mumble came through from the other end.

“I’m sorry?” Makoto asked, straining to hear.

“… I get. You know, lonely.” The voice said quietly. Any hint of wit or sarcasm that had dotted his speech earlier was gone. Makoto’s breath caught.

“Yeah. I know.” He replied. The stranger’s words rang through Makoto, hitting a little close to home.

“You do?” the voice sounded suspicious.

“Campus is a big place,” Makoto said carefully, “and there are lots of people. It’s easy to feel lost.”

“I’m lost.” The voice replied immediately. “I’m just drifting. Like water. I don’t know… anything. What I want. What I want to do. I don’t know.” Something sharp twanged through Makoto’s chest.

“I… I get it. I know you might not believe me, but I get it,” Makoto’s eyes were looking at the blinking red connection light but didn’t see it. He saw lecture halls full of strange faces. He saw professors that knew him only by attendance number and neighbors that ignored him in the halls. He saw his psych texts stacking up in a neverending pile on his desk.

“I believe you.” Makoto felt a smile creep over his face. They were both quiet for a moment. Eventually the voice cleared his throat.

“So now what? What do I do? I’ve told you my problem.” He grumbled. Makoto’s smile stayed firmly in place.

“Which turns out to be my problem too, thanks,” Makoto heard a huff from the other end and continued, “so the question becomes, what do we do?”

“We?”

“We.”

“You don’t even know me.”

“I know that in order to not be lonely, you need at least one other person.”

“You don’t want to know me. I’m mean.”

You don’t want to know me. I’m clingy.”

“You’re right, you sound awful.” The voice had a hint of laughter behind it. Makoto’s heart swelled.

“Thanks.”

“Haru.”

“What?”

“That’s my name. Haru.” The voice—Haru – said. Makoto’s blush continued past his cheekbones to the tips of his ears. Haru. Haruharuharu.

“I’m…” Makoto paused, the reality of his job a thorn in his side. “I’m… not allowed to tell you my name. Confidentiality and all that. I’m really sorry.”

“Oh,” Haru said, “right.” His voice was quiet again.

“I want to.” Makoto whispered.

“Do you always cover the line at this time on Wednesdays?” Haru asked hurriedly, ignoring Makoto, “I hadn’t talked to you before. I would have remembered.” Makoto’s blush doubled in brightness.

“Yes! I do! Midnight to 4:00. Wednesdays. I’m here with the phone and the headset and everything, talking to people. Yup.” Makoto inwardly groaned. His tongue and brain were conspiring against him.

“I’ll call you. Again.” Haru stated like this was the most obvious fact in the world. Makoto did smack his forehead this time when he felt his stomach twist in nervous knots at Haru’s words.

“You will?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.”

“And,” Haru’s voice shook a little, “thanks.”

“Yo—You’re welcome. Haru.” Makoto mumbled.

“Talk to you later.”

“Good night, Haru.”

CLICK

Makoto lifted his finger from the disconnect button, staring at the dimmed connection light. Haru. The smile on his face stubbornly didn’t move.

Talk to you later, Haru.

Chapter Text

Makoto woke up with a crick in his neck and the crawling sensation of being watched. He peeked one eye open and found himself face to face with his grinning roommate. He jerked up, heart pounding, and sent the books piled on his chest tumbling to the floor.

“NAGISA!!” he wailed, “Don’t do that! You nearly gave me a heart attack!”

“Awww, but that’s why it’s so fun, Mako-chan!” Nagisa chirped as he gathered up Makoto’s pile of scattered books. “Plus it’s entirely your fault. Falling asleep on the couch in the living room? You’re easy prey. If this were a jungle or the Jersey Shore you’d be dead within the week,”

“I’m… not sure the two are comparable, Nagisa,” Makoto rubbed his eyes and dragged himself upright. He had fallen asleep in the middle of his assigned reading. Again.

“Please, Mako-chan. They’re practically the same thing,” said Nagisa. “Rei-chan agrees with me!”

“I don’t agree to anything!” a voice called from the kitchen down the hall. Makoto smiled. While he and Nagisa were technically the only residents of their tiny two-bedroom apartment, Rei was over more often than not. Makoto wasn’t complaining. The man knew how to cook and did so often, usually while waxing poetic about the ‘composition of palates’ and ‘beauty in presentation’. It was nothing Makoto understood, but it always left Nagisa in awe, drinking in every word.

“Rei-chaaaan, you didn’t even hear what I said!” Nagisa whined, disappearing into the kitchen. Makoto scowled down at his textbooks. Just looking at them made him tired again. He started mentally restructuring his homework schedule to account for additional reading time. The sound of cackling was his only warning before he was tackled back down onto the couch.

“Mako-chan looks so serious, “Nagisa said loudly, sitting on Makoto’s chest in attempt to keep him from squirming away, “Have a long night at the hotline?”

Talk to you later, Haru.

Makoto tried to hide his face before Nagisa could catch his blush. Nagisa gasped, delighted, and tried to pull Makoto’s hands away.

“Wait, wait, wait. What happened? Mako –chan,” he giggled excitedly, “I thought you were alone, like, all the time there. Tell me! What?! I haven’t seen you this flustered since you spilled coffee all down your professor’s pants and then tried to wipe it off without realizing what you were—“

“Nagisa-kun. Please,” Rei walked into the living room, toweling his hands dry, “He’d tell you if he wanted to share. Now go wash your hands, lunch is ready,”

“Rei-chan, so boring,” grumbled Nagisa, but he let Makoto up and trotted obediently into the kitchen. Makoto watched him go and looked at Rei, who was pretending to find the ceiling fascinating.

“How do you manage to do that?” laughed Makoto with a small shake of his head. Rei’s cheeks pinked a bit and he coughed.

“I’m sure I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he turned around and gestured to the kitchen, “Come on, in another 47 seconds you’ll have missed the optimal viewing time before the vegetables begin to get limp,”

--

Most of the meal was spent in silence while Nagisa and Rei exchanged a furious series of glances. Makoto ate his salad, shifting uncomfortably whenever either of the two would look at him. It was Nagisa who broke the silence first.

“Mako-chan, just tell me!”

Nagisa!” Rei threw his hand over his eyes in exasperation.

“What!? Don’t tell me you don’t want to know!”

“That is entirely beside the point,”

“That is THE ENTIRE POINT,”

“Guys!” Makoto interrupted. Rei shut his mouth and looked guilty while Nagisa smirked at him. “It’s fine. I’ll tell you. It’s not even that big of a thing, honestly,” He smiled at them and took a quick steadying breath.

“Last night was one of those really slow nights where I wasn’t getting any calls at all, so after a while I kind of fell asleep for a minute. I don’t know how. I was just thinking about my homework and the next thing I knew the phone was ringing. I barely managed to answer, only for it to be this kid who just wanted to be sassy-“

Sassy?

“-Yes, Nagisa, sassy. But I kept trying to talk to him. Finally, he got serious and it turned out he was only trying to hide that he was… lonely. I think… he might have called the line because he just wanted to talk to someone. Anyone. He said he was lost. I—I wanted to help him, you know? Well, I want to help anyone who calls, but he was… different. Something new.” Makoto’s heart thumped painfully.

I believe you.

He hadn’t even realized he had stopped talking until Rei politely coughed for him to continue.

“… I don’t know, we just sort of talked?” Makoto stirred his salad around but didn’t eat any more. “He told me his name. I couldn’t tell him mine. He said he would call me again. We hung up. That’s about it. The end,” There was a beat of silence.

“MAKO-CHAN!”

“That is positively beautiful, Makoto-senpai-“

“That’s ADORABLE, you’re like the next Romeo and Juliet-“

“Nagisa, they are nothing like Romeo and Juliet,”

“But Rei-chan, don’t you just feel it??”

“You’re going to have to be more specific as to what ‘it’ is,”

“GUYS,” Makoto raised his voice before another argument could start up, “Seriously, it was one phone call. It was barely a few minutes long. It’s not a big deal,” even if he wanted it to be a big deal and he did because talking with Haru had felt like the beginning of a promise.

“Makoto’s thinking something sappy, Rei-chan, look at how dopey his face just got and you’re trying to tell me this isn’t the next great love story?!”

“I never said that. Don’t put words in people’s mouths, Nagisa,” Rei sighed, “And Makoto, I am happy for you,”

“Hm, what?” Makoto’s ears flushed as he was caught daydreaming, “Oh. Thank you? But like I said, it’s nothing,”

“Do you really believe that?” Rei’s gaze drilled straight through him.

“Rei-chan’s right, Mako-chan. Just keep an open mind, okay?” Nagisa smiled. Makoto returned it automatically.

“So…” Rei tried to appear casual.

“Me too! I wanna know too!” said Nagisa, nodding at Rei.

“What?”

“WHAT’S HIS NAME?” blurted Nagisa. Rei’s eyes flashed in curiosity. Makoto heard his rapid heartbeat echo in his ears.

HaruHaruHaruHaruHARU

“I don’t… I mean, we have rules at the hotline, and I don’t think I can tell you,” Makoto mumbled. He knew he was never going hear the end of it, but he couldn’t bring himself to say his name out loud.

“That’s so boring, Mako-chan!!” Nagisa wailed, “What are we supposed to call him??”

“Whatever you want,” Makoto said, picking up his plate and taking it to the sink.

“Well, I’ll figure it out soon enough,” Nagisa stuffed the last of his salad into his mouth. Makoto dropped the plate with a clatter and looked wide-eyed at Rei, who shook his head solemnly. He put his head in his hands and groaned.

“Can’t we just drop it for now? It’s nothing. It was a phone call. I’m over it,” Makoto said, words muffled through his fingers.

“Whatever you say, Makoto-senpai,”

“Don’t you worry, Mako-chan. You’ll see. You’ll be fine,” Nagisa winked.

Makoto didn’t bother lifting his head until he felt the last of his blush fade away minutes later.

--

Makoto realized after one afternoon’s worth of classes that he was not fine.

He had packed up his books and left for class like usual, refusing to think about anything to do with phone calls or mysterious strangers. He shivered a bit as he stepped outside into the crisp fall air. He took a calming breath and set off toward campus. The whisper of rustling leaves was a pleasant reprieve from Nagisa’s questioning back in the apartment.

He was lost in thought gathering ideas for his weekend to-do list when his foot caught on a crack and sent him barreling toward the ground.

“Hey man, watch out!” He felt a hand catch his shoulder at the last second.

“Oh my gosh, thank you!” Makoto laughed in embarrassment and pulled himself up. The guy let go of his shoulder and tugged on his own backpack strap. Makoto glanced over his blonde hair and neatly trimmed beard.

Haru?

“No problem. Keep an eye out for those cracks. They can be brutal,” the guy said with a smile. His clear tenor voice was much too high. Makoto felt dazed.

“I will, thanks,” he said, shaking his head to clear it. The guy nodded and walked past Makoto with a wave. He stared at his back, unmoving, until he was passed by another man typing intently on his phone.

Haru?

Makoto’s eyes widened. Oh no.

His arrival on campus was overwhelming. Every direction he turned he found himself surrounded. Would Haru longboard and wear a beanie? Would he be that boy with dreadlocks? Is that him?! Is he the one holding hands with that girl that just passed me?

Makoto closed his eyes and breathed in slowly. He was just tired from working the hotline. He was overreacting.

His pulse jumped as he heard a man with a deeper voice laugh nearby. Haru?

Makoto opened his eyes and forced himself to look at the ground until he reached his lecture hall. He fell into his chair and scrubbed a hand over his face while trying not to look too closely at his classmates. He pulled his notebook and pencils out of his backpack as students trickled in. Mindlessly he lined up the pencils parallel to the notebook from largest to smallest. Someone sat down next to him, flopping their bag on the table and rattling the pencils out of place. Makoto nudged them back.

“You’re a weird one, Tachibana,” the neighbor said, causing Makoto to jump. He turned and it was Rin who grinned at him, pulling his own notebook out. He reached over and purposefully moved the last pencil. Makoto scowled at him and pushed it into place. Rin laughed.

“Jeez, man. Someone kick your puppy this morning?” Rin was abrasive as ever, smirking at Makoto’s scandalized expression. “Chill. It’s a joke. Have a rough time in hotline hell?” Makoto looked forward, struggling to keep blood from rushing to his face.

“Yeah, you know. Tired,” Makoto shrugged and tried to be nonchalant. He rubbed his temples. His head felt like it was being squeezed by an iron band on each side.

“You’re fucking telling me. I swear, if I hear one more ‘my parents said they’re going to stop sending me money, what am I gonna dooooo’, I’m going to eat the damn headset,”

“Aren’t you being a bit dramatic?”

“Shut up, Tachibana. Silence isn’t Stupid, you know. Be Supportive of me,” Makoto snorted.

“Remind me again why you volunteer?”

“It’s required for my program,” Rin said scornfully, “Lord knows why,”

“Rin, you’re studying to become a counselor. This is going to be your life,”

“There’s a difference between advising someone face to face and listening to whiny kids on the phone, Makoto. Trust me,” Rin sighed. Makoto wondered again if Rin had been one of the people Haru had previously talked to—

He slapped his hand over his eyes and forced himself away from that train of thought. Rin raised an eyebrow at him but was thankfully prevented from commenting by the professor signaling the start of lecture.

Makoto scribbled down notes but couldn’t be bothered to understand the professor’s explanations. He rested his chin on his hand and stared through the projection screen. His concentration was devoted to resolutely not thinking about Haru arguing with Rin. Or Haru arguing with anyone. Or Haru.

Shit.

Makoto shifted his head to pinch at the renewed pressure between his eyes.

He was doomed.

Chapter Text

By the time next Wednesday rolled around, Makoto was an absolute mess.

After dragging himself around campus on Thursday, he was exhausted. His concentration had been shattered all afternoon, and the notes he took in his classes were nearly useless. He walked home, stuffed his face with leftovers, and crawled into bed. The post-it note detailing the night’s homework stared at him from his desk, but he rolled over and pretended not to imagine how much work he’d have to do the next day. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to calm his breathing.

Friday arrived like a slap to the face. Makoto woke, feeling oddly rested, only to realize he had forgotten to set an alarm the night before. He slept through his first class completely and was nearing his second. His stomach bottomed out and he flew out of bed, managing to get dressed and out the door in record time. He was still thrumming with adrenaline-fueled energy when he sat down in the lecture hall and found that he hadn’t switched out his notebooks from the previous day’s classes. It was all he could do not to scream in frustration as he tore a spare sheet out and tried to start taking notes.

The rest of the week dragged on in a similar fashion, each day adding more weight to the pressure building at Makoto’s temples. He hardly left his apartment during the weekend, trying to concentrate instead on the mountain of textbooks accumulating on his desk. Several hours and five post-it note lists later found him lying on the floor of the living room, not wondering if Haru had as much work as him or if he was having a hard time concentrating as well. Nagisa crumpled up little scraps of notebook paper and started throwing them at Makoto’s face. Makoto ignored him and forced himself to concentrate on a mental list of groceries for later.

Tuesday was by far the hardest. He spent the day avoiding eye contact with everyone and fending off Rin’s taunts about the fresh bags under his eyes. When he wouldn’t respond, Rin fell silent and watched him with concern for the rest of lecture. Makoto couldn’t decide which was worse.

That night, he cleaned the entire apartment under the questioning gazes of Nagisa and Rei. The kitchen hadn’t been cleaned in god knows how long. He smashed one of his knuckles as he scrubbed the drip pans on the stovetop but ignored the smarting pain until he finished. He sucked on the raw skin and walked into the living room. Nagisa glanced at his finger. Rei spoke up nervously.

“You should put a band-aid on that, Makoto-senpai,” Makoto laughed, but it sounded hollow.

“It’s just a scratch. It’ll be fine,”

Nagisa raised an eyebrow at him and looked over at Rei. Makoto watched the two communicate amongst themselves and felt a sudden wave of annoyance. He clenched his jaw shut before he could say anything he’d regret and walked over to where he had left the vacuum. He switched it on and let out a sigh of relief. He could hardly hear his own thoughts over its dull roar.

--

Wednesday, Makoto woke up and pushed down the small smile on his face.

Haru.

He sat up and shook his head. He had an entire day of classes to accomplish before he could even think about that. By nothing short of a miracle, he managed to pack himself up and get to campus without forgetting anything. He tapped his feet incessantly during each of his lectures, much to the annoyance of his classmates, but he simply couldn’t sit still. There was no chance he’d be able to take his usual evening nap before the hotline.

Haru haru HARU

Makoto stared at the pasta Rei had made for dinner that night but couldn’t bring himself to eat. Nagisa was humming happily as he shoveled entire forkfuls into his mouth, ignoring Rei’s protests. Makoto picked up his fork and nudged the noodles around. His stomach was one giant knot. Nagisa made an effort to swallow before turning to Makoto.

“Mako-chan. There must be something fundamentally wrong with you if you aren’t eating this pasta right now. It is HEAVEN,” he said, brandishing his fork on the last word and splattering sauce on the table.

“Not that it’s any of my business,” Rei added as he wiped up Nagisa’s mess, “but I’ve noticed this is not the first meal you haven’t felt well enough to eat within the past few days.” Makoto didn’t lift his eyes from the plate.

“I’m fine. I just must have some sort of stomach bug or something,” Makoto put a smile on his face and made himself look up. “Thanks for worrying,”

Rei nodded and busied himself with his pasta while Nagisa watched him a moment longer. Makoto raised his eyebrows and his smile drooped slightly. Nagisa’s eyes widened.

“I’ve got it! Mako-chan works the hotline tonight!” he declared, slamming his fork on the table triumphantly. Rei inhaled a mouthful of his water and started coughing. Makoto felt heat rush to his face and he tried to cover it with his hand. Nagisa patted Rei on the back, smirking at Makoto.

“S-so what if I do?!” Makoto spluttered.

“Oh, nothing, Mako-chan,” Nagisa giggled, “Nothing at all. No reason you’ve been on edge for days now. Nope. Just a normal night at the hotline for you,”

Makoto couldn’t think of a response, so he stabbed the noodles with his fork and stuffed them in his mouth. He pointedly ignored Nagisa and Rei’s smug expressions through the meal and for the rest of the night until he left for his scheduled shift. His ears were still burning as he walked out the door and heard Nagisa call,

“Tell Romeo we say hi!”

--

Makoto glanced at the clock for what felt like the 50th time since arriving at the hotline headquarters. He had only been there for a little over half an hour. He was losing his mind.

The headset wouldn’t fit right no matter how he adjusted it. He couldn’t sit still and he drummed his fingers relentlessly on the arms of the chair. The phone sat unmoved. He looked up at the posters and snorted. Underneath “Be Supportive!” someone had written in bold permanent marker, “SHUT UP, SHITHEADS!” Makoto thought it looked a lot like Rin’s handwriting.

BEEEEEEP-BEEEEEEP-BEEEEEEEEEEEEEP

Makoto’s heart stopped.

HARU

But wait, what if it wasn’t Haru? It was an open line. It wasn’t like Haru was the only person Makoto had talked to this late at night. Ice formed in the pit of his stomach.

BEEEEEEP-BEEEEEEP-BEEEEEEEEEEEEEP

Well, either way he had to answer it. He took a deep breath and hit the connect button.

“…Hello?”

“Hey,”

Haru.

“Oh thank god,” Makoto laughed, feeling lighter than he had in a week, “I wasn’t sure it was going to be you!”

“Ah, so you’ve been waiting to hear from me,” Haru said, smirk plain as day in his voice.

“No! No, it’s just—“ Makoto’s blush returned in full force. He was cut off by a small chuckle from Haru’s end.

“It’s alright. I’ve wanted to talk with you too,”

Makoto’s insides did a little dance. He was toast. Burnt, crispy toast.

“How have you been, Haru?” he asked, unable to hold back a smile as he said Haru’s name out loud.

“Not much different than normal. I wake up, swim, suffer through class, swim, then sit at home and ignore my homework. A thrilling lifestyle, I know,”

“Ha, same. You did say ‘swim’ twice, though. Are you on the swim team?”

“No,”

“But why? If you swim that much already?”

“Teams are so focused on times and practice,” Haru sighed, “it’s not for me. I swim at my own pace,”

“I used to be on a swim team back in middle school,” Makoto said, leaning back in his chair to stare at the ceiling. He hadn’t thought about it in ages. “My parents signed me up since I was afraid of the water, right? It helped, but I dropped out after a few years anyway. Everyone was so serious, I felt like I couldn’t talk with any of them. They all just saw me as competition,”

“What did you swim?”

“Backstroke. What about you?”

“Free,”

“Are you any good?” Makoto asked before he could stop himself. Haru laughed, a clear and sparkling sound that fell on Makoto’s ears like raindrops.

“My coach in middle school begged me to continue through high school and college. He said he thought I could have gone pro. Does that count?”

“Haru, that’s… seriously impressive,”

“Not really. I didn’t do it,” Haru’s voice hardened. Makoto paused before responding.

“Did you want to do it? Go pro?”

“No,”

“Then I think you are a strong person, Haru,” Makoto said firmly, “You are in charge of your own life. The fact that you were able to stand up for what you wanted in the face of pressure is even more impressive than maybe being able to go pro one day,” Haru was silent. Makoto waited a few seconds before getting worried.

“Haru?” he asked, hoping he hadn’t offended him.

“Where have you been?!” Haru asked out of nowhere.

“What? I’m on the phone with you right n—“

“No! Where have you been my whole life?” Haru’s voice was thick, “You come out of nowhere, and you just say these… things that I’ve needed to hear. For years. How do you do that?”

“I—I…” Makoto’s heart was swelling, pumping faster and faster and he was going to burst because Haru

“Thank you,” Haru said, and Makoto was flying, “Thank you.

--

They talked for an hour. Makoto couldn’t remember the last time he had laughed so much.

“—And then Rei came running out of the kitchen, eyebrows completely burnt off, screaming for me to grab the fire extinguisher. I ran to the kitchen and grabbed it from the cabinet under the sink, but by the time I turned around Nagisa had grabbed a jug of water and poured it all over the pan. I was so panicked I wound up spraying it with the extinguisher anyway, and when we cleared it all away, do you know what was left?”

“What?”

“The darkest, most burnt grilled cheese you’d ever seen in your life. Nagisa and I were on the floor crying, we were laughing so hard,” Makoto laughed, remembering Rei’s mortified, spluttering, eyebrow-less face. “Moral of the story, Rei is never allowed to make grilled cheese in our apartment again,” Haru laughed.

“Your roommates sound great,”

“They’re one-of-a-kind,” Makoto smiled, “Actually, Nagisa told me to tell you ‘Hi’ from him,”

“You told them about me?” Haru asked, a hint of a smile peeking through his words.

“Ye—es, it seems I did,” Makoto’s ears burned.

“Good,”

“Really?”

“Yes,” Haru was quiet for a moment, “So…”

“What, Haru?”

“Do I get to know your name yet?” Makoto breathed out through his nose. He had been hoping Haru wouldn’t ask.

“Trust me, Haru, when I say I want to tell you. I can’t,”

“I know. It was worth a try anyway,” Haru said softly, “I’m sick of calling you ‘phone-man’ in my head, though,” Makoto snorted.

“’Phone-man’?!”

“Well, it’s not like you’ve given me anything better to go with, phone-man,”

“Stop that. It’s weird. I’ll think of something,”

“I guess I could go with ‘phone-boy’ instead,”

“…That’s even worse,”

“I kind of like it,” said Haru, “In fact, that’s it. Nothing you can say will change my mind,”

“Haru, no,”

“Too bad, phone-boy. That’s what it’s going to be until I get your real name,” Something hot jolted through Makoto’s stomach.

“So, uh,” Makoto gulped, suddenly nervous again, “Until?”

“I’m talking to you next week, right?” Haru said it so matter-of factly that Makoto’s nerves vanished.

“Yes! Of course! Next week,”

“In that case,” Haru sighed , ”I should probably let you go. There may be other people that want to call the line,”

“Yeah, probably,” Makoto said quietly.

“I’ll talk to you soon?”

“Yeah. Goodnight, Haru,”

“Night… phone-boy,” Makoto’s squawk couldn’t fully drown out the sound of Haru’s amused laugh as he hung up.

--

The next day found Makoto in a daze. He woke up on time, went to all his classes, and smiled pleasantly through Rin’s teasing.

“God, Tachibana, come home from cloud 9, you’re disgusting,” Rin grumbled, poking Makoto’s cheek with his pen in the middle of lecture. Makoto halfheartedly swatted at it.

“Pay attention, Rin. And I am perfectly normal, thank you very much,”

“Yeah, normal as a baby deer in the middle of a pack of wolves,” Makoto scrunched up his nose.

“What?”

“Nevermind. Just stop being so…loopy. It’s distracting,” Rin frowned. Makoto covered his mouth before he could laugh and turned back to the lecture.

He continued in his hazy state of mind all the way to the library, where he was planning to knock out a couple of his task lists before heading home. He pushed open the door with a smile, Haru’s laugh echoing around his mind.

Where have you been?!

WHUMPH

Makoto walked straight into another student leaving the building, holding an armful of books to their chest. Makoto scrambled to catch them as the stack fell to the ground.

“Oh my god, I am so sorry! I should have been paying attention, I can’t believe this. Here, let me—“ Makoto looked up to hand the student the books he had picked up and was met with a pair of piercing blue eyes, “—help,”

The boy raised an eyebrow behind messy black bangs as Makoto made no move to hand him his books. He held out a hand, and Makoto shook his head quickly.

“Here,” he said quickly, handing him the books. He glanced at the covers as he passed them over. “The Early Life History of Fish, wow, uh, sounds… great?” The boy’s mouth quirked into the tiniest of smiles. Makoto felt a smile tug at his own mouth.

“Okay, so, I hope you’re alright and that all your books are fine,” Makoto needed to learn how to stop talking, “And have a good day. Yeah. Okay, bye,” The boy’s eyes searched his for a moment and walked away with a small nod.

Makoto watched him walk away and then turned back to the library. He shivered and pushed through the doors a second time, making sure there was no one there. Haru’s laugh was still bouncing around his head. He smiled. He had a feeling he would be hearing it for a while.

Chapter Text

“You have to be kidding me,”

Makoto stared at the screen of his laptop but the email from his professor didn’t change. He read it a second time, feeling the big icy hole in his chest grow larger. ‘—missed the deadline. The proposal is worth over 30% of the final grade—’

“Shit,”

Makoto dropped his head onto his desk. He had written ‘Proposal –Research Methods’ on at least three separate to-do lists. It had been in the back of his mind for weeks and he still had forgotten to submit it. He lifted his head and stared at the multicolored post-it notes covering every inch of the desk. They started to blend together and he squeezed his eyes shut.

He pulled himself upright and squinted at his computer screen. He needed to reply to his professor begging for a chance to turn in the proposal for any amount of credit possible. The cursor blinked in the ‘compose’ box but Makoto couldn’t think of anything remotely appropriate to type. Sighing, he leaned back and ran his hands through his hair. He reached over for the nearest stack of post-it notes and pulled a pen out of his backpack. He glanced up at the other lists and began identifying the most important things he still had to complete. He couldn’t remember which had come first anymore.

He started writing anyway.

--

Makoto yawned as he pushed open the library doors. He had been awake half the night trying to find articles he could use for his already-late proposal. It wasn’t until his eyes would barely stay open that he realized the majority of the ones he wanted were only available through the on-campus database. He had managed to add ‘library’ to one of the task lists littering his desk before throwing the pen on top of his books and falling into bed, dead to the world.

He pulled his hands out of his pockets and rubbed them together. It was getting cold out, and Makoto had finally brought his fall jacket out of storage. He unzipped it as he walked inside the library and headed straight for the rows of computers on the other side of the information desk.

The last open computer was on the end of the furthest row. Makoto walked over and dropped his backpack next to the chair. He hit the mouse to turn on the screen and glanced up at the study tables across from him as he sat down. He caught a glimpse of dark hair and nearly missed the chair completely.

When he managed to get himself back together and fully on the chair he peeked back at the tables, his face on fire. Sure enough, the boy he had crashed into a couple days ago was glaring at him over his textbook. Makoto ducked his head behind the computer screen and tried to push the boy from his mind. The guy had every right to be angry, Makoto had practically bowled him over. The tips of his ears felt ready to burn off. He logged on to the computer and pulled out a stack of printer paper and the list of articles he had made the previous night. The ends of the titles were a little wobbly and hard to understand from when he almost fell asleep. He frowned and started typing what he could read into the database search bar.

After a few minutes of struggling to figure out if he had written ‘c’s or ‘e’s, he found the majority of the articles he wanted. He smiled victoriously and queued them to print. He grabbed his paper and walked over, feeling proud of himself until he got to the printer. It was one of the hefty models intended for frequent office use complete with multiple drawers and an electronic screen indicating a file was waiting. He stared blankly at it for a few moments and, for the life of him, could not figure out where he was supposed to insert the paper.

He poked at one of the drawers, trying to find a button or handle that would open it. The printer beeped angrily, the flashing screen reminding him he needed to insert paper in order to print his document. He whipped his head around nervously to check if anyone had heard. He felt the air whoosh out of his lungs as he realized the boy with dark hair was watching him. He looked back down at his book when Makoto saw him, but couldn’t hide the smirk on his face. Makoto glared down at the printer. It beeped again, and he scrambled to open one of the drawers.

Makoto found a small black latch on the side and pulled. It wouldn’t budge. He set the paper to the side and knelt down, pulling harder. The latch opened with a pop and a tray slid open as Makoto overbalanced and fell backwards, landing flat on his butt. Someone giggled, and he realized several other students had stopped working to watch him. He stood up, running a hand over his burning face and saw the open tray was full of ink cartridges and definitely not where he was supposed to put paper. The tray refused to slide back, and Makoto stood, defeated, staring at the screen warning him the ink return was open.

Eventually, one of the librarians walked over and motioned for him to step back. She pressed a button, slid the tray back in, grabbed a handle on the front of the printer, and pulled open the paper drawer. Makoto put his paper in silently and she shut the drawer. The printer beeped one last time and happily began spooling paper for his articles. The librarian patted him on the shoulder and walked away. He covered his eyes with his hand and waited for the printer to finish.

After a moment, he peeked at the room from between his fingers. The dark haired boy was still staring at him. Makoto shut his eyes and willed his blush to go down. He would stare too. The boy probably hated him. Either that, or thought he was a giant bumbling disaster.

The printer whirred to a stop and Makoto snatched up the papers with a last dirty look at the flashing screen. He hurried back to the computer and logged off. He shoved the stack of articles into his backpack and swung it over his shoulder, sneaking one more look at the study tables. The boy was writing something into his notebook but looked up as Makoto stood to leave. He frowned and rested his chin on his hand. Makoto hesitated a moment but shook his head and walked away. He needed to get home and start on the proposal if he wanted a chance at any credit at all.

--

“Can you believe it, Haru? I’m probably the world’s biggest dork,”

“No arguments here,”

“Haru!”

“What?”

“Isn’t that when someone would normally say ‘oh no, you’re fine, I’m sure everyone has trouble working those printers’?”

“Except those printers literally have a giant handle right on the front where you’re supposed to insert the paper?”

Haruuu,”

“What?”

“You’re terrible, you know that?” Makoto’s smile was so wide it hurt. Haru laughed.

“Yeah, yeah. At least I can work the school’s printers,”

Makoto chuckled and spun around in the chair. His chest felt light and the tension at his temples that had bothered him for a week was gone. He could almost forget about his mess of a desk or the half-finished proposal waiting for him at home. Talking to Haru was a breath of fresh air.

“Hey! Phone-boy! You still there?” Makoto blinked and straightened up.

“Sorry, I was just thinking,” he said, fiddling with the microphone on his headset, “It’s late and my mind ends up wandering,”

“What were you thinking about?” Makoto felt heat rise in his cheeks.

“Uh, nothing. Kind of. I mean, I’ve got this proposal, right? For my Research Methods class. It’s worth 30% of the final grade, and I totally screwed it up and forgot to turn it in. Like I didn’t even have it written. I can’t believe it. I don’t know how it happened, I must have written it down a dozen times, I’m so stupid—“

“Hey. Calm down. Breathe,” Haru cut him off. Makoto, shocked, took a deep breath in through the nose. There was silence over the line.

“…and BREATHE OUT, stupid!” Makoto huffed out a laugh and wound up choking on the air, dissolving into a coughing fit.

“Thanks, Haru,” he said after it had died out.

“Yeah, well, sometimes you just need that,” Haru replied.

“Need what?”

“Someone to tell you when to stop,”

Haru’s words rang in his ears for the rest of the night.

--

Makoto was ready to throw his textbook at the next person to walk past him.

He was in the library, again. It was beginning to feel like a second home. But he and Nagisa had forgotten to pay the monthly internet bill, so the library it was until their internet was reconnected.

He missed his room. There were too many people for him to concentrate and every time someone passed him he felt an inexplicable surge of annoyance. He had resorted to hiding on the very top floor at a set of tables hidden partially behind stacks of philosophy books. He figured anyone that wandered up here would be much too miserable to bother him anyway.

He also, he reminded himself, was most certainly not hiding from anyone that may have dark hair, blue eyes, and a tendency to appear in the library whenever he was studying.

Makoto was beginning to worry the guy had it out for him. He showed up nearly every time Makoto sat down to work. Sometimes he would glare, other times he would walk past with just a glance. Either way, it sent shivers down Makoto’s spine. He was probably plotting to shove him down the stairs. Or corner him and smack the books out of Makoto’s hands with a maniacal laugh as Makoto cried in fear.

He blinked and rubbed his eyes. He really hadn't been getting enough sleep lately.

Makoto looked back down at his laptop. The light from the screen added to his pulsing headache. He wished he could talk to Haru.

With a sigh he closed his eyes and forced himself to push that thought away. Haru was wonderful, yes, but Wednesday was a few days off and he had work to do. He picked up his pen, placed it on his notebook, and looked at the screen again.

Something ugly and painful bubbled in his chest as he tried to make sense of the words he was reading. Everything went silent before his ears began to ring, and suddenly the screen was too bright, his vision was darkening around the edges and the library was too quiet and there was air getting stuck in his throat, he couldn’t think anymore, he couldn’t breathe

Someone sat down across the table from him and he was ready to scream, to throw his laptop at them, just make them leave because he didn’t understand what was happening but it couldn’t happen in front of someone else—

“Hey. HEY. Look at me,” and it couldn’t be, because nothing could be that perfect so Makoto looked up and locked eyes with the dark haired, blue eyed boy sitting across from him.

“I need you to breathe for me, phone-boy,”

Haru.

Chapter Text

Everything felt numb. Makoto’s teeth were chattering and all he could hear was the impossibly loud roar of his racing heart.

“H—ha—h—haru?”

“Listen to me. You need to calm down,”

Makoto tried to take a breath but his throat had closed off, panic tore through his chest and left him sweating even though the room felt cold as ice; his palms were wet but so were his eyes and his world narrowed down to the prickle he felt as a tear dripped from his chin. He looked down at the droplet on the table between his fists and realized his entire body was shaking uncontrollably.

“I’m going to count from five,” Haru leaned closer and kept his voice low, “On ‘out’, I want you to breathe out. Slowly. Can you do that for me?”

Makoto nodded his head once, causing the muscles in his shoulders to spasm and clench. Haru’s hands shot out but stopped, hovering just above Makoto’s.

“Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Out,”

Makoto forced himself to push air past the knot in his chest and felt a surge of relief as his breath rushed out all at once, leaving his lungs blissfully, gloriously empty.

“Now wait… ,” Haru’s fingers twitched. He flexed them slightly, “… and breathe in,”

Makoto gasped. Cool air flooded his lungs and he nearly choked on the fresh tears that streamed from his eyes. Feeling jolted back into his limbs and one of his hands flew to his face to cover the ugly sobs escaping his mouth. Haru jerked back. Snot ran freely from Makoto’s nose and he couldn’t even bring himself to care.

“... Four. Three. Two. One, and out again. Keep going,” Haru insisted, trying to lean down and catch Makoto’s eye. Makoto refused to look anywhere but the fist he still kept pressed to the table. He breathed out and slowly synced himself to Haru’s steady counting. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Out.

On the next exhale he was able to relax his shoulders. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Out.

He sat back slightly in his chair. A wave of exhaustion hit him as the shaking died off. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Out.

He unclenched his fist, palm facing up. Four perfectly crescent-shaped welts were gouged into his skin where his fingernails had been. Makoto stared at them, the last of his panic settling in a dull lump under his stomach.

“Hey,” Haru’s fingers ghosted over his open palm. Makoto jumped and snatched back his hand, heart pounding, “Feel better?”

Makoto looked up and nearly started crying all over again. Haru was watching him carefully, concern written in the slant of his eyebrows and tiny frown. His hand hung motionless where Makoto’s had been. Guilt and shame burned up into Makoto’s throat, overwhelming him with the need to erase the crease between Haru’s eyes. It was his fault. He had to fix it. He scrubbed furiously at his mess of a face and pulled a smile on for Haru.

“I’m… fine,” his voice was thin. Everything felt heavy and Makoto imagined he could sleep for days.

“No, you’re not,”

Makoto’s smile dropped. Haru stared at him through narrowed eyes.

“You—I—I am fine!” Makoto insisted, the lump in his gut growing larger. He had to be fine. He was always fine; he was the one who helped other people with their problems and how could he do that if he wasn’t fine?

“You just had a panic attack in the middle of the library,” Haru pinned him in place with his glare, “If that isn’t the definition of ‘not fine’ then I don’t know what is,”

Makoto’s stomach churned and words threatened to bubble up past his lips but he kept them firmly shut. He wanted to lash out and push Haru away. He wanted to curl up and disappear and ignore everything Haru had ever said to him. His breath caught in his throat and a red-hot bolt of panic shot through his chest. Fresh tears spilled out of his eyes and he hid his face behind his hands in an effort to catch them.

“What’s wrong with me?” he whispered and the words hurt, burning under his collarbone like live coals.

“There is nothing wrong with you,” Haru leaned closer over the table, voice dangerous and strong, “Do you hear me? Nothing,” Makoto squeezed his eyes shut.

Haru,”

“Just keep breathing. We can sit here as long as you need,” Makoto leaned over and rested his forehead on the table. It felt good on his overheated skin. He breathed in deeply through his nose and held it for a moment.

“Thank you,” Makoto said in a small voice. He heard a huff and smiled at the ground.

“Of course. Idiot,”

Makoto’s stomach did a funny little flip.

“… M—Makoto,”

“What?” Haru asked. Makoto steeled himself and lifted his head off the table to face Haru.

“Makoto,” he said again. Haru stared at him blankly for a moment before his eyes widened. Makoto nodded.

The smile that lit Haru’s face warmed Makoto from the tips of his fingers to his toes. He couldn’t have looked away if he tried.

“Of course, Makoto,”

--

They sat in silence for a long time. Makoto’s measured breathing filled the space that both were hesitant to breach. Haru was probably waiting for a sign from him before trying to talk. However, once Makoto had calmed down, he found he couldn’t think of a single thing to say.

The quiet that had been comfortable before gradually became awkward.

Makoto stared at the ground, his forehead resting on the table. Haru shuffled around in his chair, and the movement set Makoto on edge. He had to think of something to talk about before Haru got bored and left him there.

The thought of Haru leaving was enough to cause Makoto to shoot upright in his chair. Haru straightened up automatically, searching Makoto’s expression for a hint of the earlier panic. Makoto opened his mouth and blurted out the first thing he could think of.

“How did you know it was me?”

Haru stared. Makoto flushed solidly from his hairline to his chin.

“You crashed into me,” Haru said slowly, “knocked all of my books to the ground, tried to pick them up, and then started talking and wouldn’t stop. Remember?” His smirk made Makoto’s ears burn.

“Yeah, I… uh, shit,” Makoto stumbled around for something to say. Haru’s smirk grew wider.

“I recognized your voice. I might not have if you had just handed me my books and gone on with it, but when you read the cover and tried to talk with me-“ Haru shook his head, “-it reminded me of you answering the hotline. That’s when I knew,” Makoto remembered Haru’s teeny-tiny smile as he had rambled on about the title of the stupid fish book.

“You knew!!” Makoto spluttered, embarrassed, “You… you twerp!” Haru raised a hand to his chest in mock affront.

“A twerp?! Makoto, how dare you,” Haru declared dramatically. Something warm sparked through Makoto’s chest when Haru said his name and he couldn’t help but smile. Haru looked at him from the corner of his eye and burst into laughter. Makoto giggled, and soon they were doubled over, clutching their stomachs as they laughed together. A chorus of ‘shhhhhhhhhh’ erupted around them.

Makoto covered his mouth, desperately trying not to laugh. Haru’s face was pink and his eyes sparkled mischievously above his own hand. The sight hit Makoto like a punch to the gut and he was left breathless.

“We should go,” Haru whispered. Makoto glanced down at the homework that had been sitting out for hours. He smiled and snapped his laptop shut.

“Yeah. Let’s go,”

Makoto threw his things in his backpack and they ran down the stairs, still giggling.

“I can’t believe you called me a twerp. What are you, five?”

“I have younger siblings! I’m used to age-appropriate name calling!”

“You’re in college, Makoto. You can use big kid words now,”

“So mean,” Makoto teased, using his long legs to speed past Haru and reach the door at the bottom of the stairs first to hold it open. Haru shrugged.

“Never said I wasn’t,”

They pushed through the library doors to find the sun had long since set. The night was quiet and campus was nearly empty. Makoto looked in the direction of his apartment and sighed. The thought of the walk home alone was enough to take the smile off his face. The cold air reminded him of his earlier panic and he shivered, digging his hands into his pockets. Words died on his tongue as he turned to face Haru, who was looking up at the moon, still smiling slightly. A few hours ago, would have sworn this boy was plotting his demise. The silvery light glittered in Haru’s eyes and got stuck in his hair and Makoto found he was stuck too, because this was Haru.

Haru glanced at him and raised an eyebrow at Makoto’s solemn expression.

“Haru, I-“

“I’m walking you home, Makoto,” Haru said plainly, like it was the most obvious thing he’d said all day.

“But-“

“Nope. No arguing,” Haru squared his shoulders and looked Makoto directly in the eye. “After your panic attack earlier? Not a chance. I’m walking you home,” Makoto snapped his mouth shut, blushing. Shame gnawed at the pit of his stomach.

“I’ll be fine, Haru. I don’t want to trouble you,”

“You won’t,”

“It’s late. You should be studying. Or asleep,” Makoto was grasping at straws. Haru leveled him with a glare.

“Makoto,”

“What?”

“I call the hotline late at night for a reason, you know,” Haru stared down at his shoes. He picked at a loose thread on one of his backpack straps. Makoto’s guilt increased tenfold.

“Okay,” he said quietly. Haru nodded, and Makoto began walking home. Haru picked up his pace to walk beside Makoto. Several blocks passed before Haru spoke.

“It’s insomnia,” Makoto said nothing and waited for him to continue, “Had it for years. One day I just couldn’t fall asleep anymore. I stared at the ceiling of my room, waiting for it to happen. It didn’t,”

“There’s—have you tried sleep aids?” Haru’s glare was a clear enough answer.

“Not for me,”

“Is there… anything? Anything that helps?”

“Swimming,”

“Really?”

“When I’m in the water, it’s close to the recharge I’d get from enough sleep. I couldn’t function without it,”

They fell into a heavy silence again until a thought that had been nagging at the back of Makoto’s mind couldn’t hold back any longer.

“Haru,”

“Yeah?”
“Why didn’t you speak to me… before? You knew who I was and you saw me all the time, but… you didn’t tell me who you were,” Makoto slowed to a stop, staring down at the sidewalk. He couldn’t help but feel a twinge of betrayal. He had been searching for weeks to find Haru, and here he was saying he had known Makoto for most of them. Yet, rather than feel angry, Makoto found he only felt sad. Had Haru wanted to avoid him that badly? When he looked up, Haru had stopped a few feet in front of him and the crease between his eyebrows was back.

“I was afraid,” he said.

“But… why?” Haru looked back at the moon and away from Makoto’s concerned face.

“It’s stupid,”

“I doubt it,”

“I thought… I was worried you only talked with me because it was your job. And that you wouldn’t be interested in the person behind the voice,” Haru pulled at the hem of his jacket and studiously ignored Makoto. He huffed a laugh and the broken sound made Makoto’s heart throb. “People don’t normally talk to me, Makoto,”

A gaping hole opened in Makoto’s chest and he had to do something because that wrinkle in Haru’s brow was driving him mad. Makoto reached out and put his hand on Haru’s shoulder, who whipped his head around, wide-eyed. Makoto’s stomach twisted under his gaze and when he opened his mouth to speak words came tumbling out—

“I wouldn’t ever not want to talk all the time with you, Haru,”

There was silence. Makoto frowned.

“… what?” Haru asked, the corners of his mouth twitching. Makoto’s face started to heat.

“I would never not want to talk with you. No, wait— I wouldn’t be able to not—what I mean is, uh… let me restart,” Makoto stuttered. He wanted to fold into himself until he was a tiny pinprick in the universe and never talk to anyone again. Haru was doing his best not to laugh out loud. Makoto’s heart swelled at the sight and he took a deep breath before saying, “I’ll always want to talk with you, Haru,”

Haru’s smile stole the air out of his lungs and Makoto’s hand tightened on his shoulder before slipping away. His cheekbones burned against the cool night air and he started walking again, embarrassed. Haru caught up to him, still smiling.

“Makoto,”

“What, Haru?”

“You’re such a dork,” Haru said, nudging Makoto with his elbow. He wanted to disappear.

“Jerk,”

“I think you mean twerp,” Haru teased and Makoto couldn’t stop the smile that spread over his face.

“Yes, you twerp,”

“I mean, it really takes a special sort of dork to nearly break one of the school printers,” Makoto stopped dead in his tracks. Haru’s grin was positively wicked.

“Oh my god. You saw that. ALL of that,”

“Every last moment,”

“And then I told you the whole thing on the phone,”

“You did,”

Nooooooo,” Makoto wailed, covering his face. Haru laughed.

“Don’t worry. It was cute,”

“C-c-cute?!” His cheeks were flaming red.

“Makoto,”

“What?”

“Give me your phone,”

What?!” he squeaked. Haru said he was cute, Haru was asking for his phone, Haru was looking at him with those blue eyes and Makoto found himself digging in his pockets without another thought.

“I’m tired of only being able to talk to you once a week. Give me your phone,” Makoto’s heart was doing flips as he pulled his phone out and handed it to Haru. He stared at it for a moment, and looked back at Makoto. “And here I thought you couldn’t be any dorkier. This is some grandpa-level stuff right here,”

“My thumbs are too big for smartphones,” Makoto mumbled. Haru raised an eyebrow as he opened the ancient flip phone.

“Jesus, I forgot T9 was even a thing,” Haru muttered. His fingers flew over the buttons before he snapped it shut and passed it back to Makoto.

“What…?”

“I texted myself from your phone. It was easier that way,” Makoto blinked. He saw his apartment at the end of the block and was struck by the realization that Haru would be leaving soon. It was strange how natural it felt to have him by his side.

“Thanks, Haru,” He slowed down and stopped in front of his building, “We’re here,”

“Okay,” Haru turned toward Makoto and watched him. Makoto shifted nervously and scratched his head.

“Thanks for walking with—”

“Makoto. Call me tomorrow,” Haru’s eyes were determined as he cut Makoto off. “We can—we could… do something,”

“Do something?” Makoto smiled as Haru’s ears turned pink in the moonlight.

“Goddamn it,” he muttered under his breath, “We could, like, hang out? Talk? Work with me, Makoto. I don’t do this very often,”

This?” Makoto teased. Haru sighed in frustration and puffed out his bottom lip in a pout.

“Make friends,”

Makoto wanted to scoop him up and put him in his pocket and never let him out because Haru was too damn adorable, shit.

“Okay, Haru. I’ll call tomorrow,”

“Good,” he nodded. Makoto glanced at his door, and Haru started to back away, “Goodnight, Makoto,”

“Haru,” He stopped. “Thank you. Really,”

“You’re welcome,” he said after a moment. “It’s nothing you haven’t already done for me too, you know,”

“I will call you,”

“You’d better,”

“Goodnight, Haru,”

“See you later, Makoto,”

Makoto watched Haru’s back until he faded into the dark. His chest was stuffed with warm cotton and he pressed a hand to his racing heart. Haru wanted him to call. Haru wanted to see him tomorrow. Haru’s voice and his laugh and his eyes under the night sky whirled around Makoto’s thoughts.

He was still smiling when he fell asleep.

Chapter Text

Silence hung heavily in the tiny kitchen of Makoto and Nagisa’s apartment. Makoto drummed his fingers on the table. Nagisa sat next to him, swinging his legs back and forth. Rei was on his other side, his arms crossed in front of his chest. Nagisa’s eyes flicked back and forth between them before settling on the table. He blew his bangs out of his face noisily before finally speaking up.

“Mako-chan,”

“Yeah?”

“Why are we watching your phone?”

Makoto sighed. Rei leaned forward to be level with the table.

“I, too, was wondering,” he said, inspecting the phone in question over the rim of his glasses. “Is it broken?”

“No,”

“Is it a Transformer?!” Nagisa yelled, scooting closer.

“Wouldn’t you want to move away if that was the case, Nagisa-kun?” Rei asked, raising an eyebrow.

“I don’t see you moving away, Rei-chan,” Nagisa stuck his tongue out at him. Makoto smiled as they glared at each other over his phone, barely a foot’s worth of space between their faces. He cleared his throat and they jumped, looking over at him.

“No, it’s not a Transformer,” he said calmly, “It’s just my phone,”

Mako-chan,” Nagisa whined, “then why are we sitting around staring at it?”

“Well, I honestly don’t know why you guys are,” Makoto said, “seeing as how you just walked in here and sat down without saying anything,”

“We thought you were doing something interesting!” Nagisa pouted, “But all you did was stare at it and now I’m bored,”

“I’m… sorry?”

“That still leaves a question, though,” Rei piped in, shoving his glasses up his nose, “Makoto, why were you watching your phone?”

Makoto choked on his spit and tried to look anywhere but at Nagisa and Rei. The blush on his face was unmistakable, though. He could almost feel Nagisa’s grin, it was so wide.

“No reason,” he squeaked.

“Mako-chan. WHY were you watching your phone?!” Makoto thought his ears were going to burn clean off.

“I… I just—“ Makoto fumbled around his words, “It’s not! I mean, it’s nothing! Nothing at all!”

“I knew it!” Nagisa giggled and turned to Rei, “This has something to do with Romeo,”

Romeo?!” Makoto spluttered as Rei nodded in agreement, “What?!”

“Oh, Mako-chan,” Nagisa shook his head, “What have you gotten yourself into now?”

“The fact that he happened to be staring at his own phone could lead to some interesting conclusions,” Rei said thoughtfully, leaning back. Makoto buried his face in his hands. This wasn’t happening.

“Like what, Rei-chan?”

“My hypothesis,” Rei puffed up his chest and stuck his chin in the air, “is that Makoto gave Romeo his phone number in case he needed to talk beyond Makoto’s scheduled hotline hours,” Makoto smiled into his palms. That actually wasn’t a terrible idea. He could have done that. Why hadn’t he done that?

“Sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s not it,” Makoto said, peeking out between his hands. Rei deflated like an old plastic bag and Nagisa patted him lightly on the shoulder.

“Then why?” Rei tried to reclaim his lost ground. A smile appeared on Makoto’s face before he could hide it as he remembered moonlight trapped in black hair and a laugh that warmed him to the core. Nagisa whacked Rei’s shoulder so hard his glasses flew onto the table. Rei shot him a scandalized look but Nagisa was too excited to notice. Makoto’s stomach squirmed into knots and the words built up on the tip of his tongue until he couldn’t stop them anymore.

“I maybe might have kind of met him in person yesterday,” he said in a rush. Nagisa screamed and hit Rei clear out of his chair.

MAKO-CHAAAAAN,” he yelled, pounding his hands on the table as Rei struggled back up from the floor. “WHAT? HOW? TELL ME EVERYTHING,”

“Come on, guys,” Makoto’s face wouldn’t stop burning, “It’s not a big deal—“

“It is, in fact, the biggest deal,” Rei said, pulling himself into his chair and grabbing his glasses from the table.

“But why? It’s just a guy that I’ve talked to on the phone maybe a handful of times, tops, and accidentally ran into at the library—“

“So it was the library?” Nagisa leaned forward into Makoto’s space.

“—and besides, it was kind of an awful situation and really embarrassing and it turned out he had known who I was for ages—“

“How did he know?” Rei shoved his glasses up his nose and almost poked his eye in excitement.

“—and seriously, I have no idea what Haru even thinks of the whole thing, it’s such a weird situation—“ Makoto slapped his hand over his mouth and his eyes widened. No. No no no no noooooooo.

“Did I just hear that correctly, Rei-chan?”

“Yes, I believe you did, Nagisa-kun,”

“There’s only one thing left to do, then,” Nagisa sat back in his chair, eerily calm.

“And what is that?” Rei asked.

“TO MY COMPUTER, REI-CHAN,” Nagisa sprung up and stood on his chair, “WE HAVE A NAME!” He jumped down and ran off into the hallway. Rei smiled and the fond look on his face made Makoto’s chest hurt. Rei glanced back at him and pushed his glasses up his nose once more.

“Makoto-senpai,” he murmured, “Based on this new evidence there are a few conclusions I could draw, but they all lead to the same thing,” He looked pointedly down at the phone still on the table. Makoto’s heart jolted.

Call him,” Rei stated solemnly. He stood, nodded once, and followed Nagisa down the hall. Makoto gaped after him. After a moment, he reached over and picked up his phone. He stared at it, and flipped it open to check the time. 11:46 PM.

His thumb hovered over the menu button. He hadn’t gathered the courage to add Haru’s number to his contacts, let alone read the message he had sent from Makoto’s phone the night before. He clicked the button and scrolled to ‘Sent Messages’. At the top of the list, above a couple texts to Nagisa and Rin, there was a number with no name attached. He took a deep breath and opened the message.

To:8738949488, 12:41AM 10/03/2014
[If you’re reading this when I expect you will, then yes, I’ll still be awake. Dork.]

The warm cotton feeling filled his chest again and Makoto realized he was smiling like a goon. He clicked on the phone number and added it to his contacts with shaking hands. He looked at the name in his phone for a second before opening a new message.

To: Haru, 11:48PM 10/04/2014
[How did you know?]

His heart pounded wildly as he hit ‘Send’. He shut his phone quickly and threw it across the table. It skittered right over the edge and clattered to the floor.

“Shit!” he whispered, dropping under the table to pick it up. He had almost grabbed it as it let out a loud BEEP and he yelped, crashing his head into the table. He fell to the ground and glared at the notification light as it blinked happily.

“Stupid phone. Stupid Haru. Stupid texts,”

With a groan, he picked up the phone and dragged himself out from under the table. He rubbed the bump on his head and opened the new message.

From: Haru, 11:48 PM 10/04/2014
[I KNEW IT]

Makoto had the phone to his ear in a flash. Haru answered after one ring.

“Cutting it close to midnight, there, phone-boy,”

“But how did you know?!” Haru laughed.

“Just a guess,” he said, “An entirely accurate, educated guess,”

“You…” Makoto shook his head, smiling, “You’re ridiculous.”

“And you’re almost late. Eleven minutes and you’d have run out of ‘call tomorrow’ time,”

“I—I was…” Makoto didn’t want to admit to spending the whole day glued to his phone, fighting the crippling fear that Haru won’t want to talk, Haru won’t pick up, What would we even do? What do I say?

“It’s fine,” Haru’s voice jerked Makoto out of his thoughts, “I wouldn’t have been mad anyway,”

“Why not?”

“I like to flatter myself and pretend that I’m starting to understand how your mind works, phone-boy,” Haru said, sounding much more serious than his words implied, “So I wouldn’t have been mad,”

“Haru…” Makoto felt something spark under his ribs. Haru coughed, flustered.

“Well. Anyway. You called me,” he said, “So, uh, what are we gonna do?”

“Ah, well,” Makoto scratched his head, “It’s a bit late to go anywhere, so I guess we could just… talk?”

“Alright,” Makoto heard Haru shift around on the other end. “What do you want to talk about?”

“Uh. I don’t… maybe… How was your day?” Makoto asked, wincing. Haru chuckled.

“Really, Makoto?” The sparks under his ribcage shot straight down his spine as Haru said his name.

“What?! It was all I could think of!” Makoto walked down the hallway and into his bedroom. He could hear Nagisa and Rei chattering excitedly from Nagisa’s room. He toed his door shut and sat down on his bed.

“It was fine,” Haru was smiling, Makoto heard it in his voice, “Went to class. Swam. Spent an awful amount of time waiting for my phone to ring. You know, normal stuff. You?”

“Same,” Makoto sighed, leaning back on his pillows. “I did have to fend off an overly-enthusiastic Nagisa when he found out why I had been staring at my phone for hours, though,”

“Hours?”

“Shut up,”

“You’re smooth as an iceberg, phone-boy”

“Yeah, yeah,” he laughed, resting an arm under his head, “Oh, and Nagisa found out your name, so don’t be surprised if you get a million notifications or messages from him or something,”

“I think he’ll be the one that’s surprised when he realizes I don’t do social media,”

“What?” Makoto asked, “Not even Facebook?”

“To keep track of my classmates from high school? No thanks,” Haru’s voice tightened. Makoto realized they were edging into dangerous territory. He paused before speaking again.

“Haru,”

“What?”

“Why… Please don’t— just don’t be mad, but… why—“

“Makoto,” Haru cut him off, “It’s fine. Just ask me,”

“Why didn’t you have any friends?” Makoto mumbled. Haru exhaled loudly through the speaker.

“That’s it? Oh my god, Makoto. Here I thought you were going to ask something actually serious,”

“I thought it was pretty serious!” Makoto felt his ears burn. “How is that not serious?!”

“It was my own decision, so I don’t think it’s that terrible,”

“Your… decision?” Makoto bit the inside of his cheek as questions popped into his head, but he waited for Haru to continue. Haru sighed and shifted around again.

“Well, you asked,” he said. Makoto remained silent and he continued.

“When I was little, I used to have this crazy wild imagination. I mean, I guess I still do, but when you’re younger you don’t know how to keep quiet about that sort of thing. So I used to tell all the other kids these insane stories, Makoto. About everything. The Sun’s house he went to every night while the Moon was out. How blades of grass were swords in the mouse wars. Things like that. And I believed it, too,” Haru’s voice was distant. Makoto pictured a tiny Haru, blue eyes blazing, talking to anyone that would listen to him about his fantasy world. His heart throbbed and he rolled over to bury his face in his pillow.

“What happened?” he asked.

“Kids are mean, Makoto,” Haru said plainly, “They thought my stories were weird and laughed at me, telling me I was stupid. But adults were worse. They would pretend to be interested the whole way through, and then pat me on the head and tell my parents how precious I was or how vivid my imagination was. Nobody even tried to listen. So I stopped talking. Everyone forgot my stories. They got this idea that I was a quiet kid that kept to himself, and it was easier for me to be who they expected. It’s always easier to give people what they think they want,”

Makoto’s entire chest felt hollow. His throat closed up painfully at the thought of a young Haru hiding himself away, tired of being shut down.

“That’s why… I’m studying to be a marine biologist,” Haru continued, “The ocean is magic, Makoto. There are places and animals we’ve never seen and can’t even begin to imagine. The water makes everything alive and fantastic but the best part is that it’s real,” His voice was so full of awe that Makoto’s heart ached.

“You’re amazing,” he blurted out, “Wait! Shit, I—I mean… I said that out loud, didn’t I?”

“Makoto,”

“I meant your imagination! And how you held onto it even if people put you down! Most people would just give it up completely and you’re… “

Makoto,”

“You’re incredible,” he whispered. There was silence. Makoto squirmed as the seconds ticked by.

“… Makoto,”

“Haru,”

“Can you... damn it—can you say that again?”

“Haru?” Makoto blinked.

“No, no… before that. A-About me,”

Makoto’s chest swelled and the warm cotton was sweeping up through him until he couldn’t stop grinning. It took over his face and he smiled until it hurt his cheeks.

“You’re amazing, Haru. You and your imagination and how you see the world. You’re unlike anyone or anything I’ve ever seen,”

“… Shut up, Makoto” Haru’s voice was watery and he sniffed. Makoto felt his heart crack.

“Haru?! “ Makoto panicked, “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“Yes, you giant, unbelievable dork,” Haru laughed a little, “I’m okay. Because of you, I’m okay,”

The cracks burst, spreading warmth all the way down to his toes. Makoto couldn’t stop smiling. Even after they had said their goodbyes and hung up, the grin wouldn’t leave his face. He stared at his ceiling, phone resting on his chest. He set his alarm and pulled the blanket over his head. Words could only go so far. He wanted to think of a way to show Haru just how incredible Makoto thought he was.

But how?

--

“Hey! Tachibana!”

Makoto looked up as he heard his name in the bustling student center. He frowned, searching the crowd for anyone he recognized.

“Over here!” He spotted Rin waving wildly from several tables away. Sousuke sat next to him, hand over his eyes, pretending to ignore Rin as he stood up to get Makoto’s attention. Makoto waved back and headed over to their table.

“Rin, Sousuke, hey guys,” he said as he dropped his backpack next to an empty chair and sat down. Sousuke lifted a hand halfheartedly in greeting and grimaced at Rin.

“There, he’s here, you can sit down now,” he grumbled. Rin stuck his tongue out in response but flopped down into his chair and turned to Makoto.

“What’s up, man?” he asked, grabbing a handful of fries off his plate and jamming them in his mouth. Sousuke glared at him. Rin tried to make a face but failed as a couple of fries fell out of his mouth to the ground.

“Well, actually…” Makoto looked around, settling for watching his own fingers as he picked at his jeans, “There’s something— I don’t know if you guys would want to, but… I need some advice,”

“Whoa, now, Tachibana!” Rin smiled broadly at him and Sousuke perked up a bit. “What’s this?! Tell your good friends Rin and Sousuke here what’s bothering you. We can put our skills to good use for once,” Sousuke rolled his eyes.

“Rin, we help people on the hotline too, you know,” he said, smacking the back of Rin’s head.

“Hey! Yeah, we help whiny freshmen who can’t get over themselves—“ Sousuke cut him off with another whack.

“Just because you find them annoying doesn’t mean they don’t need our help,” he said with finality. Rin pouted and rubbed the back of his head.

“Okay, fine,” Sousuke nodded at him and turned back to Makoto.

“Now, Tachibana. What’s your problem?” he asked with a smile. Makoto fidgeted for a moment.

“So, uh, I’ve met… this guy,” he mumbled at his knees.

“Whoa-ho-ho! Wait a minute!” Rin cried, jumping back. “This is why you were so weird the other day, wasn’t it?!” Makoto blushed and ducked his head further down.

“Calm down, Rin,” Sousuke chastised and Rin slouched in his chair, brooding. “Continue, Tachibana,”

“Anyway,” Makoto sighed, “This guy, he’s… fantastic. I only met him a few weeks ago and he’s changed… well, everything. He understands me better than myself, but I do the same for him. Does—does that make sense? It’s stupid, isn’t it,” Makoto laughed bitterly.

“No, it makes perfect sense. Keep going,” Sousuke said seriously, leaning forward. Rin eyed him curiously, eyebrows pulled together in contemplation.

“I want to show him how much he means to me. But I can’t figure out what to do!” Makoto slumped back in his chair and ran his hand through his hair. “I’m out of my mind! I thought about it all night and got nowhere!”

Sousuke sat back in his chair, tapping his chin thoughtfully. Rin watched him and said nothing. Makoto looked between them nervously. After a moment, Sousuke cleared his throat.

“It sounds to me, Tachibana, that your real problem is that you’re overthinking it,”

“What?” Overthinking it? But how else would he come up with an idea? Haru needed something spectacular.

“If you know this guy as well as you say, figuring out what he would like should be easy,” Sousuke propped his chin up on a hand and glanced out of the corner of his eye at Rin. “Plus, if he feels the same about you, he’ll appreciate it no matter what you decide to do,” Rin’s eyes widened.

Makoto frowned. Overthinking it. What would Haru want to do? Haru, who could never sleep. Haru, with the imagination that wouldn’t stop—

Inspiration hit him in a flash, and he shot to his feet.

“Got it!” he yelled and picked up his backpack. “Thank you, Sousuke! You’re great. And Rin too,” Sousuke nodded with a small smile. Rin grunted an affirmative, eyes never leaving Sousuke. He looked like he had been hit over the head with a bag of bricks. Makoto looked between the two, smirking. He raised an eyebrow at Sousuke, who shrugged slightly with a smirk of his own.

“Alright, bye then,” Makoto backed away, shaking his head. It seemed like there were hopeless idiots everywhere on campus. Himself included. He pulled out his phone and dialed Nagisa’s number.

“MAKO-CHAAAN,” Makoto held the phone away as Nagisa’s voice blared through the speaker.

“Hey, Nagisa, are you near a computer?” he asked as he walked toward his next class.

Am I near a computer. Who do you think I am, Mako-chan?”

“Can you look something up for me, please?” Makoto grinned. His stomach twisted around in excitement.

He could only hope Haru was going to love it.

--

To: Haru, 5:46PM 10/05/2014
[Are you free tonight?]

From: Haru, 5:57PM 10/05/2014
[Makoto. Yes. I’m free every night.]

To: Haru, 5:58PM 10/05/2014
[Meet me in front of the library at midnight?]

From: Haru, 6:00PM 10/05/2014
[Are you Cinderella?]

To: Haru, 6:00PM 10/05/2014
[No! What?!]

From: Haru, 6:01PM 10/05/2014
[Don’t worry, I’ll be there. But why?]

To: Haru, 6:03PM 10/05/2014
[Good. And it’s a surprise. See you later, Haru!]

From: Haru, 6:06PM 10/05/2014
[Fine. See you later, dork.]

Chapter Text

Makoto paced in front of the library doors, hands stuffed in his pockets, trying not to check his phone for the umpteenth time since leaving his apartment. The night was misty and cold with the moon high in the sky. Makoto could see puffs of his breath illuminated by the nearby streetlamps. He shivered and checked his watch. Only two minutes until midnight.

He stuck his hand back in his pocket and traced the outline of his phone. His finger caught on a dent and he scratched absentmindedly at it with his nail. A gust of wind blew straight through Makoto’s jacket and he hunched his shoulders, trying to conserve what little warmth he could.

Maybe this had been a bad idea.

Haru had swept into his life like a typhoon, throwing everything out of balance and overwhelming him entirely. His room at home was littered with dirty clothes, textbooks, and unfinished task lists. Half his time was spent trying to gather his concentration while the other half was consumed by thoughts of dark hair and endlessly blue eyes. Makoto shifted from foot to foot and his stomach churned uneasily. Haru had obliterated the structure that had held his life together for so long.

Makoto frowned. Could Haru have been the reason he had lost track of his assignments? Was Haru the cause of his embarrassing panic attack in the library?

Icy tendrils of fear crept through his abdomen and he was struck with the overwhelming urge to curl into himself. His breath caught in his throat. He hurried over to the nearest bench and sat down, huddled over his knees. His legs were shaking and he couldn’t tell if it was from the cold or not.

Was this Haru’s fault?

Breathe, Makoto.

Makoto closed his eyes and forced himself to count. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Out. He exhaled shakily and felt tears begin to well at the corners of his eyes.

“Makoto!” His head flew up. “Makoto!”

Haru was running toward him with his breath streaming out in clouds around his head, and Makoto was sure he had never seen anyone more beautiful in his life. Haru’s hair was everywhere, his cheeks were flushed pink, and his blue eyes flashed dangerously in the dingy yellow light from the streetlamps. He skidded to a stop, breathing heavily, and crouched down in front of Makoto.

“Mako—to! A-are you—a-alright?” Haru panted. His nose dripped and his chest was heaving, but Makoto couldn’t tear his eyes away from his face. “… Makoto?!” Haru hesitated when he didn’t answer, and lifted trembling hands to cup Makoto’s cheeks. His fingers were freezing and Makoto sucked in a breath when his thumb brushed away a stray tear.

This couldn’t be Haru’s fault. Not when he was the only one capable of making Makoto feel normal again.

“H-haru,” Makoto gasped.

“Shhhh,” Haru’s thumbs stroked, feather-light, over his cheekbones, “I've got you. Are you counting?”

Makoto nodded, breathing out through pursed lips. Haru sighed and closed his eyes as he started to catch his own breath. Clouds of vapor rose between them as a minute passed. Makoto’s thundering heart slowed gradually as he continued to count. How could he have possibly thought Haru was the problem? Haru wasn’t a typhoon. He was the summer rain. He was color; he was soothing, energizing, and vital and had woven himself irrevocably into Makoto’s life. Makoto lifted his right hand and placed it over Haru’s on his cheek. Haru’s eyes sprang open in surprise.

“Better?” Haru whispered.

“Yes,” Makoto murmured, “Thank you,” Time froze for a single, crystal clear moment and he dragged his fingers down Haru’s knuckles, sending fire blazing through his arm and into his chest. Haru inhaled sharply and jerked his hands away. They both stared, wide-eyed, as reality groaned back into motion around them.

Haru coughed and stood up, shuffling around before staring at a point above Makoto’s head. His cheeks were bright red and he worried his bottom lip between his teeth, and damn, that had to be the cutest thing Makoto had ever seen. He took one last cleansing breath, wiped a hand over his face, and smiled up at Haru.

“Funny how we keep meeting like this,” he said with a small laugh. The corners of Haru’s mouth twitched up, but he forced them back down into a comically serious frown.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Thank you, Haru,” Makoto met Haru’s questioning gaze head on, and after a few seconds Haru visibly relaxed.

“Okay,” he nodded, “Good. Okay,”

Makoto’s smile only grew as watched Haru flutter around nervously. He rocked back and forth on his feet and looked up as he opened his mouth wide to blow large puffs of steam toward the sky. Another gust of wind swept through and Haru shivered. He glared down at Makoto, who hadn’t even bothered to move his own hand away from his face.

“Well?!” he demanded. The tip of his nose was starting to turn pink.

“What?” Makoto thought it was adorable. Images flashed through his head of Haru in winter, windburnt cheeks crinkling up as he laughed, reddened nose hovering over a cup of hot chocolate, blue eyes devouring Makoto as if Haru thought he was sweeter than the cocoa itself—

“I’m here. It’s midnight,” Haru’s flat voice cut his daydream off at the knees. Makoto blinked and shook his head. Haru stared down at him, unimpressed. “Unless I’m mistaken, it was only yesterday when you said midnight was too late to go anywhere. What changed?”

Makoto straightened up. He had almost forgotten his plan. He pushed himself off the bench to find he was suddenly standing much too close to Haru who would fit perfectly tucked underneath his chin and who had to tilt his head back slightly just to see Makoto’s face and the line of his pale neck disappeared under his sweatshirt and Makoto wanted to follow it down—

Haru took a step backward automatically and the space allowed Makoto to pull himself back together. He cleared his throat and gestured for Haru to walk down the sidewalk.

“Come on. I’m taking you somewhere,”

“But why?” Haru’s eyebrows pulled together slightly. He looked so confused that Makoto couldn’t help but laugh.

“Didn’t you read my text? It’s a surprise,”

Haru huffed, and Makoto nudged him forward until he started walking.

“I don’t get it,” he grumbled. Makoto walked next to him, and if he was a little closer than necessary it was entirely due to the chilly weather.

“It’s this thing people like to do sometimes that you might have heard about… It’s called ‘hanging out’,” Makoto teased.

“Makoto!” Haru gasped dramatically and turned toward him, “Are you sassing me?!”

Never,”

“I don’t know what to say,” Haru pretended to wipe a tear from his eye, “I’m just so proud!” He caught Makoto’s gaze and they both burst out laughing.

“I—I hope you’ll like it, Haru,” Makoto managed to say as they calmed down. Haru beamed at him and Makoto couldn’t feel the wind biting at his face because Haru warmed him straight through.

“If it’s with you, I’m sure I will,”

--

“Makoto…”

“Yeah, Haru?”

“I still don’t know what’s going on. At all,”

They stood outside a set of double doors, staring up at a fluorescent sign. The “4” of “24-HOUR DINER” was burnt out completely while the rest of the letters flickered halfheartedly.

“Just… trust me,” Makoto reached for the worn handle and held the door open for Haru. “After you,”

“… Thank you…” Haru wandered inside, eyeing the chipped paint and peeling linoleum skeptically. Makoto prayed Nagisa hadn’t inadvertently sent them to the local dive. Asking Nagisa for help was always a gamble.

Thankfully, the diner itself was much cleaner than the exterior led them to believe. The walls were painted a cheery yellow, and bright lights filled every inch of the space. An old-fashioned jukebox sat silently next to the entryway. Most of the diner was empty, save for a handful of stragglers and an elderly waitress behind the counter. Makoto blew out a sigh of relief.
“Perfect,” he whispered. Haru raised an eyebrow at him.

“Yoo-hoo! Hi there!” The elderly lady called, giving them a small wave, “You boys sit wherever you’d like, I’ll be there in just a smidge,”

“Thank you!” Makoto smiled warmly, and touched Haru’s shoulder. “Let’s sit in the corner, over there,” Makoto felt Haru’s warmth through the fabric of his sweatshirt and he wondered how cold he had been outside. Haru nodded and walked over, leaving Makoto’s hand suspended in midair. His fingertips itched and he dug his thumbnail into the pad of his index finger.

“Makoto?” Haru had stopped halfway to the booth, waiting for Makoto to move.

“Oh, sorry!” Makoto shook himself and followed Haru. The vinyl cushions creaked as they slid in to face each other over the table. Haru slouched down, propping up his head on a loose fist and fixing Makoto in his gaze. Makoto grabbed the salt shaker and slid it from hand to hand across the scratched tabletop. The sudden crash of pans from the kitchen caused him to jump and he knocked the shaker over, spilling salt everywhere. Haru raised an eyebrow as he pinched a few grains in his left hand and tossed them backwards over his shoulder.

“You are something else, Makoto,”

“What?! It’s bad luck!” Makoto swept the rest of the salt off the table and shrunk down in his seat.

“It’s salt,” Haru deadpanned.

“But what if something happened?”

“What could possibly happen?”

“I—I don’t know!” Makoto spluttered, heat creeping up the back of his neck. “What if I had forgotten and we walked out of the restaurant and you got hit by a car?! Or I forgot and an escaped convict broke in here and held us all hostage? Or—“

“You think way too much,” Haru cut him off. Makoto gaped at him. “Calm down,”

“But—“ The waitress shuffled up to their table before Makoto could respond.

“Well hi now, boys,” she smiled as she set menus in front of them and pulled a notebook out of her apron, “I don’t think I’ve seen you in here before. You kids normally come here during the day?”

“No! No, we just—“ Makoto smiled back at her automatically, “—we wanted to try something new?”

“Oh, of course, sweetheart!” She whipped a pen out of the mountain of white hair piled on top of her head, “You looking for something to eat tonight? Or can I start you off with something to drink?”

“I’ll just have a coffee, please. And…?” Makoto looked to Haru.

“Water,” he mumbled, half into the hand he rested his face on.

“Sure thing, honey. I’ll be right back, you make yourselves comfortable now,” she flipped her notebook closed and shuffled back behind the counter to get their drinks. The soft clink of glasses echoed through the restaurant as they sat silently. Makoto unwrapped his roll of silverware and started folding his napkin into smaller and smaller triangles.

“Makoto,”

“Hmm, Haru?”

“Why are we here?”

Makoto folded the triangle in half again. His palms began to sweat and he felt an uncomfortable twist in his gut. He steadied himself to face Haru.

“So,”

“So?” Haru repeated. Makoto gave him an exasperated look.

So,” he continued, “There’s this game. I used to play it at restaurants with Ran and Ren when they were younger,”

“Ran and Ren?”

“My—“ Makoto stopped as the waitress returned, drinks in hand. She set Haru’s water down in front of him and pulled a straw out of her apron.

“Here you are, sweetie,” Haru looked bewildered and pulled the collar of his sweatshirt toward his mouth.

“Thanks,” he murmured. She beamed at him.

“Not a problem at all,” She turned to Makoto and set a steaming mug of coffee in front of him. “Need any cream or sugar, hun?”

“Ah, thanks but no, I’m good,” He smiled.

“Okay then, honey. And holler if you boys get hungry, the cooks are bored out of their minds back there,” She winked at Makoto who blushed furiously as she walked away. Haru hid his smile in his hand. Makoto snatched up his triangle napkin and started tearing little pieces off into a pile on the table.

“So Ran and Ren?” Haru unwrapped his straw carefully and plunked it in his water. He traced a finger down the outside of the glass, leaving a clear streak in the condensation. Makoto watched, mesmerized, as he drew out a pattern of waves. The napkin fell from his hand. “Makoto?"

“Oh! Right,” Makoto picked up his coffee and blew over the top of it. “Ran and Ren are my little siblings. They used to get restless whenever we’d go out to eat, so I had to figure out a way to keep them entertained. A game,” He took a sip and almost spat it out as it scalded his tongue.

“And what does that have to with us right now?” Haru swirled the straw around his glass and leaned down to take a sip. Makoto stared at the point where his neck disappeared underneath his sweatshirt and his fingertips started to itch again.

“Uh—,” He pressed his fingers to his steaming mug until they burned, “Well, um, I was… I wanted to play it with you tonight, Haru,”

Haru was quiet for a moment and glanced around like he was waiting for something.

“Haru?” Makoto felt a lump forming in his throat. Of course Haru wouldn’t want to play a stupid game, this had been a terrible idea and Haru was going to get up and leave him in this grungy little diner—

“Well, obviously I’ll play this game with you, Makoto, but you’re going to have to explain it before we do anything else,” Haru said slowly, like he was talking to a child.

“Oh!” Makoto’s heart leapt, “O—of course! That makes sense,”

“Lay it on me, phone-boy. How do we do this?” Haru sat up and drew little fish in the condensation on his glass. Makoto smiled as he drew a tiny pirate ship on top of the waves.

“Okay, the first thing we need is a restaurant with other customers sitting around,” he took another sip of coffee, careful not to burn his mouth, “so it looks like we’ve got that one covered,”

“Makoto, there are like six other people here besides us. Does that even count?”

“No, that’s perfect. It gets even harder when there are more,”

What is this game?!”

“Right,” Makoto grinned and his stomach squirmed as he met Haru’s questioning gaze. “The way it works is we pick through the other customers and take turns coming up with stories about their backgrounds. Whoever comes up with the craziest but still believable history wins!”

Haru blinked. His mouth opened slightly and Makoto worried he had done something terribly wrong.

“Haru?” Makoto panicked and set his coffee down, fiddling with his fingers, “If you don’t want to play, that’s fine— we can leave. I just thought… with what you said about your imagination— forget it. What a stupid idea, it’s just a game for kids—“ Haru grabbed one of his hands, stopping him mid-sentence.

“Makoto. Shut up,” his eyes blazed and Makoto couldn’t breathe, “You’re so dumb sometimes, you know that?”

“W-what?”

Haru didn’t answer and turned toward the rest of the restaurant. Makoto’s focus zeroed in on the hand that still lay on top of his. It was cold and a little sweaty, and Makoto wanted to twist his wrist slightly until their palms connected, but he couldn’t bring himself to move.

“The man sitting by himself over there. The one with the waffle,” Haru whispered, “He’s… he used to be a stockbroker. He was making so much money that he didn’t know what to do with himself anymore. He would come home to an empty house and lay for bed in hours, wondering what was missing. One day he realized that he might have been making a ton of money, but he didn’t feel passionate about anything anymore. So he quit his job and used the money he had saved to open a… a record store. Music was the only joy in his life. He decided he’d rather be immersed in it and potentially bankrupt himself than ever work a steady job again,”

Haru’s smile was enormous as he turned back to Makoto.

“Thankfully, he still manages to make enough to enjoy his guilty pleasure every week after he’s finished counting his inventory late at night,” Haru leaned forward slightly, “Belgian waffles with whipped cream and strawberry sauce,”

Makoto watched the man stuff a bite of waffle happily into his mouth. Strawberry spread dripped from his fork back to his plate and he wiped it up with a finger.

“Wha—“ Makoto looked at Haru, who was grinning like a kid on Christmas morning. “How…?”

“Your turn,” Haru sat back, crossed his arms, and flicked his bangs out of his face. His eyes were brighter than Makoto had ever seen them, and every bit of his posture screamed a challenge. Makoto’s blood boiled and he was gripped with the desire to impress Haru.

“Uh,” Makoto glanced around, eyes catching on their waitress, “The old lady working here. She’s… a grandma and is working to help put her first granddaughter through college. She wishes someone had been there to tell her to go to college as a young girl. Her granddaughter wants to be… a chemist! And she couldn’t be more proud.”

“The two men sitting at the table three down from us. They work the second shift together at a warehouse nearby. On their days off, they meet up with one of their brothers and mix music together. They have two albums out of experimental trance-type stuff. They want to sign with a record label and make it big,” Haru paused, waiting expectantly for Makoto to continue.

“Keep going,” Makoto said, “Please,”

“But it’s your turn,”

“You’re much better at it than I am,”

“That’s not true,”

“It’s true,” Makoto stated firmly, “Besides, I want to listen to you,”

“I—okay,” A faint blush spread across the bridge of Haru’s nose, “Um, the woman sitting at the counter. She’s a professional artist, but hasn’t gotten any galleries to support her yet. She does paintings and then adds traditional embroidery on top. She doesn’t get enough sleep, and her eyes have gotten really bad from squinting all the time at the embroidery stitches.”

“Are you sure? She looks more like an underpaid teacher to me,” Haru rolled his eyes.

“You were the one who wanted me to keep going,” he said, “So you’re not allowed to criticize. Also, we’re going to run out of people soon,”

“Yeah,” Makoto nodded, “Although there are more than I expected for midnight,”

“Why did we come here so late then?” Haru asked. Makoto’s pulse jumped and he swallowed before answering.

“Because. I knew you’d be awake,” Something flashed through Haru’s eyes, but the elderly waitress appeared out of nowhere at their tableside and cut him off.

“You boys doing alright?” she asked pleasantly. Makoto blushed five different shades of red and Haru burrowed his face into the collar of his sweatshirt. She looked between the two of them and sighed, “You poor kids look exhausted. You in college?” Makoto nodded. She continued, “It figures. They work you poor students to the bone nowadays. My granddaughter complains all the time how she hasn’t had a decent night’s sleep in weeks,” Both Haru and Makoto’s eyes popped open.

“Y-your granddaughter?” Makoto stammered. She beamed.

“She’s smart as a whip, that one! Studying to become a lawyer,”

“Can’t win all of them, Makoto,” Haru whispered.

“What was that, hun?” the waitress asked. Haru shook his head.

“Nothing,”

“Oh, well, now that I think about it,” the waitress scratched her cheek in thought, “It’s about that time of year, isn’t it?”

“What do you mean?” Makoto asked.

“Aren’t those tests—midterms— right? Aren’t those coming up soon?”

Oh. Oh no.

Her words fell on Makoto’s ears and sounded as if they had traveled through a mile of water to get there. He looked down at his hands resting on the table. They felt like they belonged to someone sitting next to him. He lifted one slowly and saw it like he was looking through the wrong end of a telescope.

“—Makoto!” Haru’s voice was tinny and much too quiet for how deep the lines in his face were. Makoto stared at them and realized Haru had grabbed his telescope hand and was shaking it back and forth.

“—he alright? Do you need—“ the waitress was still talking next to him.

“—No, just,” Haru squeezed Makoto’s hand. The fluorescent lights multiplied and Makoto was dizzy, so dizzy.

Haru,” he managed to croak and it felt like his mouth was full of molasses but he tasted something metallic and when had the yellow walls gotten so bright?

“Makoto! Makoto!” Makoto turned towards Haru’s voice and the world tilted. The only thing that kept him upright was Haru’s strong grip on his shoulders. Makoto’s legs shook and he saw his breath. When had they gotten outside? “Breathe, Makoto! Breathe for me, please!”

Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Out.

Makoto’s world snapped into focus. He and Haru were standing outside the diner, his legs were trembling uncontrollably, and Haru’s hands dug furiously into his shoulders. He gasped for air and his neck muscles seized up. Haru let go and began rubbing up and down the sides of his neck as he shuddered.

“K—keep going. Count,” Haru looked pained. Makoto wanted to reach up and smooth out his frown but he couldn’t tell where his hands were. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Out.

Makoto’s breath formed a cloud around them. Haru’s hands continued moving until he began to relax.

Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Out.

“H—Haru,” Makoto stuttered, “What happened?”

“Just another panic attack,” Haru whispered, resting his hands against the base of Makoto’s neck. “Take your time,”

“But— did you…” Makoto exhaled shakily, “Did you pay? For my coffee?” Haru made a strangled sort of growl, and pulled Makoto’s face down to eye level.

“Yes, I paid for your coffee,” He hissed, “You—you… ugh,” Slowly, so slowly, he leaned forward until his forehead bumped Makoto’s. His breath rushed over Makoto’s lips and they parted automatically, but Haru simply held him there, sharing the silence.

“H-haru?”

“Shut up. Just shut up,” Haru said. Makoto’s heart pounded wildly in his chest. “Do me a favor, okay?”

“What?” Makoto breathed.

“Just once, think about yourself as much as you do for others,” Haru pulled back. “You hear me? At least once,”

“I—“ Makoto wanted to agree because Haru was asking it of him, but, “I don’t know what you mean,” Haru sighed and let his hands fall from his neck. He took a step away before looking up at Makoto.

“Forget it,” he muttered. He put his hands in his sweatshirt pocket with a scowl.

“Okay,” Makoto was exhausted.

“But for the record,” Haru spoke up quietly, “This was… amazing. Thank you,” Makoto’s stomach danced.

“You’re welcome, Haru,” his voice wobbled out and he blinked slowly.

“Do you think you can make it if I walk you home?” Haru asked and Makoto nodded. “Let’s get you back, then,” He started walking but stopped when Makoto didn’t move. A warm hand closed around Makoto’s and tugged gently. He walked after it with a giant yawn.

“Come on, Makoto,” Haru said. Makoto found it hard to keep his eyes open when every inch of his body was tingling pleasantly.

“Okay,”

Chapter Text

“—And last but not least, I just want to remind you all that midterms are, in fact, next week. I hope you all have been reviewing your notes, as it will be comprehensive—“

The professor’s voice was drowned out by a collective groan from the lecture hall. Makoto looked down at his notebook, wondering idly if he could stare hard enough for the pages to spontaneously combust. Rin poked him with a pen and he jumped with a small yelp.

Rin!” he hissed, rubbing his side. Rin shrugged and twirled the pen between his fingers.

“What? You’re an easy target,” he said, “Plus you looked like you were gonna explode, so I wanted to see if you would,”

“I swear, one day you’re going to get yourself in real trouble,” Makoto grumbled as he packed up his books. He zipped his backpack shut and stood, swinging it over one shoulder.

“Nah, man. Sousuke’d kick my ass first,” Rin smiled.

“Like I said. Real trouble,” Makoto pulled his phone out of his pocket and turned it on. It buzzed and the screen lit up with a new message. Makoto’s stomach flipped.

From: Haru, 1:36PM 10/21/2014
[Study later?]

Makoto allowed himself a moment of giddy excitement before he squashed it back down. He hiked his backpack up a bit and hit ‘REPLY’, punching in a quick response.

To: Haru, 1:53PM 10/21/2014
[Yes! Library again?]

Makoto shut his phone, stuffed it back in his pocket, and finally noticed Rin’s giant smirk.

“Texting the man?”

“N-no! Well, yes, but he’s not ‘the man’ or whatever that’s supposed to mean. He’s a man. But not the man. So no? No,” Makoto said nervously as he looked anywhere but Rin’s all-too-knowing face. He could feel his cheeks burning.

“Tachibana, I say this in the most caring way possible, but you really need to get a grip,” Rin stood up and took out his own phone, scrolling through his notifications. He glanced up at Makoto with a wicked smile, “You and this kid just need to do the do. You’ll be chill as fuck,”

WHAT,” Makoto yelled, causing the few students left in the hall to stop and turn toward him. He thought he could feel his blush all the way down to his knees. Rin snorted.

“You know? Get it on. Knock boots. Adult sleepover. Have se—“ Makoto clapped his hand over Rin’s mouth, who tried to shout the rest out but only succeeded in a muffled gurgle. Makoto swore he was on fire and he whipped his head around, worried anyone around them might have overheard. Nobody gave him or Rin more than a passing glance and he let out a sigh of relief. His phone buzzed in his pocket and he nearly flew into the air. He felt Rin laugh behind his hand.

“Rin, I’m going to take my hand away, and you are going to stop talking about this. Got it?” Makoto whispered furiously, and Rin raised a questioning eyebrow. “Got it?” Rin rolled his eyes and nodded. Makoto pulled his hand away slowly.

“Jesus, Tachibana, I’m done. Calm yourself,” Rin ran his fingers through his hair, “You’re gonna stress the rest of us out by osmosis,”

“Not sure that’s the right way to put it,” Makoto said and started to walk towards the door and realized they were the last ones left in the lecture hall. Rin followed him out, and stopped once they pushed through the doors.

“Yeah, whatever,” he waved a hand in dismissal, “Hey, I’ll see you later, I’m meeting up with Sousuke while we’re still on campus,”

“Alright, see you later,” Makoto waved and Rin headed off towards the union. He waited until Rin’s back was indiscernible from the crowd before grabbing for his phone. His heart thudded hard in his chest as he opened the message.

From: Haru, 1:55PM 10/21/2014
[No, there are too many people now cause of midterms. Mind if we go to yours? My dorm room’s kind of cramped.]

Makoto couldn’t stop the flood of mental images following Haru’s text. Haru in his apartment. Haru, sitting at the kitchen table with a hand under his chin, staring at Makoto over his textbook. Haru, relaxing on Makoto’s bed like he owned it, holding a hand out and pulling Makoto down to fall on top of him, his hands in Haru’s hair, Haru’s warm breath on his neck…

Makoto squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. Rin’s words weighed heavily on his shoulders. Do the do. Get it on. Get it on. Get it on.

Makoto pinched the bridge of his nose and concentrated on slowing his pounding heartbeat. He couldn’t. He couldn’t do that to Haru. They had been hanging out for a little over two weeks, and he and Haru hadn’t gotten closer than that night at the diner. In fact, Makoto was almost convinced Haru was purposefully keeping at least a foot of space between them at all times. They sat across from each other while studying. Haru was always an arm’s length away from Makoto while walking next to him. They hardly made eye contact, but when they did Haru would always jerk his head away after a brief second.

It was driving Makoto insane.

He just wished he could tell what was going on inside Haru’s head. He pressed the ‘REPLY’ button with a little more force than necessary.

To: Haru, 1:58PM 10/21/2014
[That’s fine. Text me when you’re on your way?]

Makoto snapped his phone shut and started compiling a quick cleaning list for before Haru came over. He and Nagisa had a pile of dirty dishes growing in the sink, the living room was covered in sheets of note paper and empty energy drink cans, not to mention his room was nearly uninhabitable. He started walking home at a brisk pace, already mentally filing away where his textbooks and clothes were supposed to go. His phone buzzed once more in his hand.

From: Haru, 2:00PM 10/21/2014
[I will. See you later, Makoto.]

He spent the walk home frowning at the sidewalk. Haru obviously only wanted to study for midterms. Just thinking about how many tests he had to study for caused Makoto’s blood pressure to rise, and he took a calming breath. It was true that half the student population had taken residence in the library in preparation for midterms. Haru hated being surrounded by crowds of people. Makoto couldn’t blame him for not wanting to study there. But did that mean Haru was just using him for a convenient place to go until the library emptied out again? Dread crept up his spine and caused a bitter taste in the back of his mouth.

Haru had implied they were friends. Was that what he wanted from Makoto? Friendship? Makoto would give it to him gladly, even if his heart ached for something more. Makoto would give anything if it meant he kept Haru at his side. What he felt for Haru... it was something deep and terrifying and Makoto wasn’t sure he could function without it anymore.

He stopped outside his apartment door and straightened his shoulders. He didn’t have time for thoughts like that. He swung open the door open with a smile and startled Nagisa and Rei up from the couch where they were half-heartedly trying to study.

“Mako-chan! Welcome home!” Nagisa jumped up, knocking over a pile of papers on the coffee table. Rei watched them fall and dropped his head with a sigh. Makoto glanced over the disaster zone of their living room with a small frown.

“Nagisa. Rei,” he said seriously, “We have to clean. Now,” Nagisa groaned and flopped back down on the couch.

“Mako-chan, whyyyyyyy,” he whined.

“Because,” Makoto braced himself, “Haru is coming over tonight,”

Nagisa shot upright. Rei’s eyes popped.

“WHA—“ Nagisa fell quiet as Makoto raised a hand.

“He’s coming to study. Yes, you can meet him. But first,” Makoto gestured toward the room, “we need to clean up… this,”

Nagisa was practically vibrating with excitement. Rei muttered something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like ‘finally’.

“You just wait, Mako-chan!” Nagisa lept up, pulling Rei off the couch and pushing a stack of books into his arms, “The apartment is going to be the cleanest you’ve ever seen it! Come on, Rei-chan, man your battle stations! ROMEO IS ON HIS WAY!”

--

Makoto stared down at his desk, and found that he couldn’t touch it. Nearly every inch was covered in post-it notes, each with a new variation on his ever-developing to-do list. He had managed to throw all his laundry in the hamper, put his books away, and generally got the rest of his room in order but he couldn’t bring himself to disturb his desk.

What if I throw away a list that I haven’t completed yet? What if I lose track of something? I already missed my proposal deadline earlier, what if I forget a midterm entirely?

He checked his phone. Haru had texted him 15 minutes ago saying he was leaving his dorm room. Time was running out, but the thought of going through his lists caused a lump of ice to form in his stomach.

“Mako-chan! Come look!” Nagisa’s voice echoed down the hallway, and Makoto tore himself away from the post-it notes. He grabbed the books he wanted to study and walked down to the living room where he found Nagisa and Rei beaming at him over a plate of freshly baked cookies, the room spotless behind them. Makoto felt a sudden rush of affection for his friends.

“I couldn’t help myself, Makoto-senpai, “ Rei blushed, “I just was so excited to meet Romeo, and suddenly I was pulling a tray of cookies out of the oven,” He held the plate away as Nagisa made a grab for one.

“And I helped! Well, kind of. I mostly picked up things and did whatever Rei-chan told me to do,” Nagisa smiled widely.

“You guys,” Makoto shook his head, smiling. He set the books down on the coffee table. “You’re great. Thank you,”

“You’re welcome, Mako-chan!”

“Of course, Makoto-senpai,”

The doorbell rang. Nagisa squealed, and Rei combed a hand through his hair. Makoto laughed at them even though his stomach was doing backflips.

“Remember, don’t call him Romeo. He has a name,” Makoto said as he walked toward the door.

“Aye aye, Mako-chan!” Nagisa saluted him. Rei fluttered around with the plate of cookies, trying to decide where to set them.

“What do we do, Makoto?” he panicked. “Do I put the cookies on the table? Should we be standing? Should we wait in the kitchen?”

“Just… act natural. I’ll get him from the front door,” Makoto opened their door and walked down the complex’s hallway, heart pounding in his ears. He turned the corner and saw Haru waiting outside. The wind tugged through his dark hair and he glared at Makoto through the window, hopping from foot to foot to keep warm. Makoto’s stomach did an entire gymnastics routine.

“Hi, Haru,” Makoto breathed as he pushed the front door open. Haru rushed past him and sighed in relief at the warm hallway.

“About time, it’s cold as balls out there,” Haru smirked as he rubbed his hands together. Makoto smiled down and felt the urge to cover Haru’s hands with his own. He crossed his arms and shifted nervously. Haru glanced down the hallway. “So…”

“Oh, right! Follow me,” Makoto led the way. “My roommate and his friend are home too, but they’re just studying. It shouldn’t be too crowded or anything,”

“It’s better than the library or my dorm, trust me,” Haru said. “I can’t get anything done anymore,” Makoto nodded, and pointed to his unit’s door.

“This is mine,” He twisted the handle and held the door open for Haru, who stopped dead in the doorway. Makoto peeked in behind him and nearly slammed his head into the door. Nagisa was leaning against the wall, two cookies stuffed in his mouth, while Rei laid across the couch as if posing for a catalogue, an arm draped dramatically over his eyes. He still held the plate of cookies with his other hand. Nagisa made some sort of sound around the cookies, and Rei peeked out from under his arm.

“Welcome, Ro-o-o—hello,” he said, sitting up with a flourish and laying the plate of cookies on the coffee table. Nagisa went for a third and Rei smacked his hand away. Makoto pressed his forehead against the still open door.

NATURAL, guys. Act natural,” Makoto said, pained.

“I still don’t know what that means!” Rei hissed, turning a violent shade of pink. Nagisa chewed his cookies vigorously, jumping up and down, eager to add to the conversation. Makoto glared at them.

Haru’s shoulders shook, and suddenly the room was full of his laughter. Makoto’s eyes widened as Haru leant against the doorframe for support. Warmth bloomed in Makoto’s chest.

“Oh—my—god,” Haru gasped, “I—I’m sorry!” He couldn’t stop laughing. Rei hid his face in his hands, and Nagisa finally swallowed down the last of the cookies.

“Haru-chan!” he ran forward, eyes shining. “It’s great to finally meet you! Mako-chan says such great things about you,” Haru glanced back at Makoto with an enormous smile, and Makoto’s heart skipped a beat. Haru pulled himself up and wiped a tear from his eye.

“He does?” Haru teased, “That’s so kind of him,”

“I’m Nagisa, and that’s Rei,” Nagisa gestured wildly, “And those cookies are for you! Please have one!”

“Thank you,” Haru said, and walked into the apartment. Makoto shut the door behind them, still warm from Haru’s laugh. Nagisa sat down next to Rei and looked between Haru and the cookies expectantly. Haru picked one up and took a bite, glancing down at it in surprise. “This is actually… really good! Did you make them?”

“Rei-chan did!” Nagisa shook Rei’s shoulder, who puffed up a bit at Haru’s compliment. “He’s a fantastic cook!” Rei’s cheeks turned positively vibrant at Nagisa’s praise. Haru frowned a bit and turned back to Makoto.

“Is this the same Rei who burnt the grilled ch—oh” Haru cut himself off as Makoto shook his head minutely. Haru stuffed the rest of the cookie in his mouth. “Mmmf—so good. How did you do it?”

“Well,” Rei pushed his glasses up his nose, “The key is using dark brown sugar. And melting the butter fully before you mix it into the batter, of course. But my personal opinion is that the secret lies in the visual ratio of chocolate chips to batter—“

“And with that, Rei-chan and I will be leaving,” Nagisa jumped in, pulling Rei up from the couch. Rei spluttered angrily.

“What are you talking about, Nagisa? Haru needs to understand the value of proper baking!”

“You can tell me all about it while we go to… to that one place you promised to take me? Remember?” Rei looked skeptically down at Nagisa.

“No, I don’t remember—OW!” he yelped as Nagisa stomped on his foot. “Oh, right! That… place? With that… thing?”

“Yeah! That!” Nagisa ran down the hallway and returned seconds later with their jackets. He threw Rei’s over his face and eagerly wrapped a bright purple scarf around his own neck. Rei pulled his jacket down and put it on, resigned.

“That’s my scarf, Nagisa-kun,”

“I know, Rei-chan. But it looks better on me,” Nagisa smiled as he zipped up his coat. Rei sighed.

“Alright. Let’s go,” he said, opening the door for Nagisa.

“Bye, Mako-chan! Nice meeting you, Haru-chan!” Nagisa called as he ran down the hall.

“Have a good evening, Makoto. It was a pleasure, Haru,” Rei shook his head, “Please excuse Nagisa,”

“Not a problem,” Haru said, raising an eyebrow. “You’d better go catch him, though,”

“You’re telling me,” Rei muttered, and shut the door behind him. Makoto blinked, not entirely sure of what had just occurred. The empty room stared back at him. Haru walked over to the couch, dropped his backpack and jacket on the floor, and flopped down like he was at home. He grabbed another cookie and examined it.

“I thought you said Rei couldn’t cook,” Haru said, and took another bite.

“Rei can’t cook grilled cheese. He’s brilliant at everything else,” Makoto shrugged his shoulders, “It’s kind of a sore spot for him, though,” Haru laughed.

“Then I’m glad you stopped me,” he said, and rolled over to glare at his backpack. “Makoto, can we just skip to life after midterms? I don’t think I can read another page of animal physiology and survive,” A bolt of panic shot through Makoto’s chest at the mention of midterms, but he pushed it down behind a smile.

“Come on, Haru. They’re just tests. That are worth a huge part of your grade,” Makoto frowned. He sat on the ground and pulled his books toward him. Haru watched him carefully and ate the last of his cookie.

“You’re right. They’re just tests,” Haru wiped his hand on his shirt. Makoto opened the book at the top of his stack and felt pressure start to grow at his temples. He took a deep breath and held it before he let it out. Haru unzipped his backpack, glancing up at Makoto every few seconds. “You all right?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Makoto asked, putting a smile on his face. Haru frowned.

“No reason,” Haru grabbed one of his books and turned away. Makoto studied his face, taking note of the slight bags underneath his eyes. Haru had stopped calling him at the hotline since they had exchanged phone numbers, but Makoto still wondered if his insomnia had been bothering him. He felt a sharp pain under his collarbone at the thought of Haru lying awake and miserable in the early hours of the morning. Haru looked over at him.

“Makoto. You actually need to read the material to study it, you know?” he said. He pulled a highlighter out of his pocket and threw it at Makoto’s head. “Concentrate, dork. I want you to quiz me later, and I can do you too,”

“R-right, okay,” Makoto squeaked. He struggled to keep his mind out of the gutter as Rin’s words from earlier echoed around. Do the do. Get it on. He cleared his throat and forced himself to start reading.

--

“Makoto,”

“Hm?” Makoto looked up from his textbook. He and Haru had managed to be silent for the past hour, and he had gotten a surprising amount of reading done.

“Where’s the bathroom?” Haru sat up and twisted his back until it cracked.

“Oh, just down the hall that way. You’ll find it,” Makoto waved. Haru padded off in the direction of the hallway. Makoto flipped through a couple of pages to find the end of the chapter. He mentally patted himself on the back. Not too bad.

He rested his head on his hand and stared at the rest of his textbooks stacked neatly on the table. His heart sank. He closed his eyes, taking a moment to enjoy the peace of his empty living room. After a while, he heard the sink run and shut off, followed by quiet footsteps back into the room. Makoto smiled a bit as he heard Haru sit down. He shuffled around a bit, and Makoto opened his eyes. Haru’s eyebrows were drawn into a deep frown.

“Haru?” Makoto’s pulse jumped, “Are you okay? What’s wrong?”

“I’m fine,” he said, and refused to meet Makoto’s gaze. Makoto watched as he yawned widely and rubbed at an eye.

“H—have you, you know,” Makoto swallowed, “Have you been getting enough sleep? How’s your… your insomnia?” Haru finally met his eyes. That damned wrinkle was back between his eyebrows and Makoto’s heart stopped. A sickly sweet metallic flavor filled the back of his mouth.

“It’s fine,” he said, louder. “I am fine. I just…” He sighed heavily.

“What?” Makoto closed his textbook and leaned forward.

“How are you, Makoto?” Haru’s eyes glinted. Makoto froze.

“I’m—Haru? I’m fine,” Makoto stuttered, “What… Where is this coming from? I told you that already,”

“Don’t lie to me!” Haru shot up from the couch. The air crackled between them and Makoto shrunk back.

“I’m not lying! Why—what’s wrong?!” Makoto asked desperately. His heart pounded in his ears.

“You’re not fine, Makoto!” Haru yelled back. “You can try to cover it up with your smiles and how much you care for other people, but you can’t fool me!”

“I’m not trying to fool anyone!” Makoto stood up to look down at Haru. He didn’t budge an inch, blue eyes flashing.

“You’re fooling YOURSELF!” Haru yelled up at him. The words were like a slap to Makoto’s face. “You see everyone else’s problems so easily, but yours? You’re fucking BLIND!”

What are you talking about?!” Makoto yelled. The world was shifting around him and Haru’s words dug into his soul, leaving scorching hot trails that burned.

WHAT AM I TALKING ABOUT?” Haru flew down the hallway. Makoto could hardly take a steady breath before he was back, hands full of multicolored post-it notes. The floor fell out from under Makoto’s feet. “THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT,” Haru threw the post-it notes at him and they exploded everywhere, fluttering down to cover their textbooks and cookies.

“I—I,” Makoto watched the post-it notes float through the air. His eyes wouldn’t focus anymore and his breath came in short gasps.

“You are NOT fine, Makoto Tachibana!” Haru yelled. “You are beyond stressed. You’ve had multiple panic attacks in the past few weeks, you can’t stop making these fucking lists even though you never finish a single one, and you can’t SEE it! Makoto!” His voice cracked on Makoto’s name. Tears threatened to spill from Makoto’s eyes, and Haru’s words echoed in his ears until he just couldn’t take it anymore.

“It’s not a big deal! All college kids have stress!” Makoto felt a coil of anger rise up and snap. “I’m nothing unusual. Nothing special,”

SHUT UP!” Haru nearly screamed. There were tears in his eyes too, but Makoto was too angry to care. “You’ve helped me so much, Makoto! I was alone and I had nothing I gave a shit about. I hated everything! And then I talked to you, and for the first time someone was listening to me, and I realized my problem hadn’t been everyone else. It was my shitty attitude! YOU showed me that!” Haru gritted his teeth and looked away. Makoto felt nauseous and hollow at the same time.

“I—“

“And then,” Haru hissed, “I finally started to care about people. About you. And you treat yourself like shit, Makoto! Do you know how that makes me feel? To see you tear yourself apart?!”

Makoto opened and closed his mouth a few times but no words came out. Haru’s eyes were flashing dangerously and the room felt off-balance. Haru took a step closer and Makoto couldn’t breathe.

“L—let me,” Haru grimaced, tears spilling from his eyes, “Let me help you, Makoto. Like you helped me. If you won’t help yourself, then let me,” The burning anger and frustration and fear bubbled up in Makoto’s chest like an animal.

Why,” he whispered, looking away, anywhere but at Haru’s blazing eyes. “Why?!”

“Why what?” Haru took another step and he was around the coffee table and directly in front of Makoto. Makoto tried to take a breath but a sob escaped his mouth on accident.

Why do you care so much?!” Makoto gasped. Haru laughed, but the sound was terrible and broken, choked by tears and bitterness.

“Why the hell do you think?!” he snapped, “I thought I made it fairly obvious,”

Makoto’s world was folding in on itself, this couldn’t be happening, there’s no way, Haru had been keeping his distance, he wouldn’t even touch Makoto…

Haru slid his hands up Makoto’s neck, leaving trails of fire as they settled to cup his jaw. Haru leaned closer and Makoto was pulled in like a meteorite, burning everywhere.

“I want to help you. And,” Haru’s breath caught and the sound sent a torrent of sparks down his spine, “I want you,”

With a pained sound, Makoto dove and captured Haru’s lips with his. Haru pushed back, biting down on Makoto’s bottom lip and he whimpered, pressing himself closer to Haru. His entire body was a live wire, and Haru lit him up until it was almost blinding. Haru’s tongue traced the lip caught between his teeth, and Makoto shoved his hands into dark hair, pulling it down until Haru was looking up at the ceiling. He gasped, and Makoto left a trail of open-mouthed kisses down under his chin, to his throat, and to the hollow of his collarbone that had haunted Makoto for weeks. He laved over the sensitive skin with his tongue and Haru groaned. Makoto licked up one side to the junction of his shoulder, and blew on the glistening skin. Haru’s whole body shivered, and Makoto wanted more.

He pressed a reverent kiss to the spot right above Haru’s collar, and Haru arched his head back, groaning louder. Makoto ran his hands down Haru’s sides to rest at his hips, and bit the tender skin beneath his lips. Haru cried out, hands flying to Makoto’s hair and scratching at his scalp. Makoto worried the skin for a moment and pulled away, feeling a jolt of pride at the reddening mark showing that Haru was his. He looked up at Haru, whose eyes were blown wide. His chest heaved, and Makoto brushed over his cheeks with gentle fingers, pulling him in for a bruising kiss. He sucked Haru’s upper lip between his and pulled, drawing a breathy gasp from Haru. He licked it lightly and tilted Haru’s head to seal their mouths together. He drew his tongue up the roof of Haru’s mouth slowly, and Haru moaned from deep in his chest.

Suddenly there was nothing but cold air where Haru had been, and Makoto heard his own breath coming in heavy pants. Haru stood back, arms outstretched. His lips were bright red and slick with spit, his hair was everywhere, and Makoto ached to pull him into his arms and do the do get it on DO IT DOIT. Makoto took a deep breath and ran a hand over his face. If Haru had stopped, there must have been a reason. Even if he was too far gone to see it.

“Makoto,” Haru’s voice was an octave lower than normal and it took everything Makoto had not to tackle him then and there. “I… I want you, I really do, but…” He slid his eyes shut, and took a breath. Makoto realized he was counting.

“I think there are some things you need to think about first,” Haru said with a voice of solid steel. “Namely, yourself,”

Makoto wanted to yell, wanted to scream ‘but it’s YOU, I want YOU! That’s all I want!’ but the words couldn’t leave his mouth.

“I think…” Haru took another measured breath, “I’ve been trying to wait. Until you’d figured yourself out. Because until you’ve got your shit straight, then this?” He gestured between them, “This can only hurt us. Both of us,”

“But—“ Makoto gaped. Haru held up a hand.

“Makoto. Please,” Haru gathered up his books and threw them haphazardly into his backpack. “You think this isn’t hard for me too?” He pulled his jacket on and walked to the door, pausing with his hand on the handle.

Haru,” Makoto whispered. Haru shivered, and looked back at him over his shoulder.

“Makoto,” Haru said, holding his gaze, “Figure it out. Think about yourself. What you want. And then,” he wrenched open the door, “come and find me,”

The door slammed shut.

Makoto stood in the living room, unmoved, until the sun set and darkness surrounded him. And only then, in the dark, did he crumble.

Chapter Text

Makoto felt pain pressing in on his temples before he even opened his eyes. Pale white sunlight filtered through the living room curtains, and Makoto squinted angrily as it fell across his face. He pulled his blanket up over his head and tried to squeeze himself into the back corner of the couch. He had nearly fallen back asleep when he frowned and pulled the blanket down.

He stared at the cushion an inch from his face. His headache throbbed. He didn’t remember his bed looking anything like the couch in the living room. He looked back at his blanket, gears groaning into motion in his head.

Makoto sat up slowly and rubbed his temples in an attempt to ease the pain shooting through his skull. He was definitely in the living room, not his bedroom, but his blanket was with him on the couch and Makoto could not figure out what was happening. His throat felt like sandpaper and his eyes were swollen and scratchy. His phone vibrated on the coffee table and Makoto glanced down.

His textbooks were neatly stacked next to a plate of cookie crumbs and a carefully arranged pile of multicolored, wrinkled post-it notes. Makoto’s stomach bottomed out.

THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.

Makoto’s fingers dug into his blanket as Haru’s voice echoed in his ears. The events of the previous night crashed into him like a brick wall. He screwed his eyes shut and clenched his jaw, breathing in shallowly through his nose. Haru’s voice battered against his brain, hurt and anger welling up in his chest as each sentence replayed in perfect clarity.

You are NOT fine, Makoto Tachibana!

Makoto pulled at the blanket between his hands, ignoring the sharp twang of snapping threads. In one fell swoop, Haru had overturned everything Makoto had desperately believed to be true. He had been fine, he had always been fine, he had to be fine because what would happen if he wasn’t?

You can’t SEE it! Makoto!

Haru’s words rocked the foundation of Makoto’s confidence like nothing ever had. Makoto had always disregarded people’s concern. He had wanted nothing more than to reassure others. His own troubles weren’t worth considering in comparison. But Haru had torn through that idea, watching Makoto when he brushed aside his own complaints, taking the time to watch and actually see what Makoto had been doing to himself.

Nagisa and Rei’s worried faces flashed through his mind. He had ignored them any time they had bothered to ask how he was. Maybe Haru hadn’t been the only one to notice.

You treat yourself like SHIT, Makoto!

Makoto took a deep breath in through his nose and forced himself to open his eyes. The pile of post-it notes on the coffee table burned into his vision. A ripped piece of notebook paper tucked underneath his phone caught his eye. He tugged it out and read the note scribbled on it.

Mako-chan-

Rei-chan and I got home last night and found you asleep on the couch. The place was kind of a mess, so we brought out your blanket and cleaned up a bit. Please don’t hate me, but I turned the alarms off on your cell phone too. You needed the sleep, no matter what you say. You can be mad at me all you want, but I don’t care.
You know you can talk to us if you ever have a problem, right? Rei-chan and I get worried.
Haru-chan seems like he’s good for you. I’m glad. You needed someone like him.
We’ll see you after class. Give yourself a break, okay?

-Nagisa

PS, If you’re wondering where most of the cookies went, It was me. Sorry not sorry.

Makoto’s eyes widened and he scrambled to check his phone. He clicked past the new message notification and stared at the time. He had completely slept through his first two classes. He tensed, waiting for the guilt to clench his gut, but nothing happened. He frowned. Usually when he missed classes, the panic would eat away at him until he wrote a new to-do list or cleaned or did something to make up for it. Instead he just felt horribly empty, like a wrung-out washcloth.

His argument with Haru had caused Nagisa and Rei trouble. He had been irresponsible, and they had cleaned up after his mess. Makoto felt nauseous. Nagisa had even decided that Makoto wasn’t fit to go to classes and had taken it upon himself to make sure he slept. Makoto closed his eyes and braced himself for the anger that was sure to come. It flashed briefly before fading and settling like a block of lead in his stomach.

Makoto shivered and swung the blanket up around his shoulders. His chest was hollow and everything felt cold and heavy. He glanced down at his phone and clicked back to the new message.

From: Rin, 11:14AM 10/22/2014
[WTF man where r u, ima fall asleep in class without u here]

The phone vibrated again while Makoto read Rin’s text, showing another incoming message.

From: Rin, 11:23AM 10/22/2014
[U there? Everythin OK?]

Makoto snapped his phone shut with a scowl and threw it across the couch. His headache pounded. He glared at the post-it notes until his vision blurred and the colors bled together. His world felt like it was falling apart piece by piece, and all he wanted to do was sleep. He pulled the blanket tighter around his shoulders, stood up, and walked down the hallway to his room, ignoring everything that reminded him of the classes he should be getting ready for. He couldn’t bring himself to care.

Makoto collapsed onto his bed in a heap and was asleep in a matter of minutes.

--

When he woke up the second time that day, Makoto was burning.

The blanket was wrapped tightly around him like a burrito and sweat dripped down his neck. His breath came in sharp pants and for a moment Makoto worried he had developed a fever. He moved to unwind the blanket and froze. Blood rushed in his ears.

He was painfully, maddeningly hard.

Makoto’s head whirled as the seconds ticked by. Fleeting impressions of soft lips and breathy sighs swam through his mind. A half-formed image of messy dark hair and blue eyes hooded in pleasure splashed across his vision and Makoto whimpered. He pressed a hand against his mouth and kicked the blanket off. He had been dreaming, and it had been good. He strained his ears for any sign that Nagisa or Rei might have returned, but the apartment was silent. The only sound was his labored breathing, picking up slightly in pace as Makoto’s other hand drifted down to press against the bulge in his jeans.

He groaned, the sound muffled by the hand still covering his mouth. He fumbled to unbutton his pants and managed to unzip them fully. His eyes slid shut and he took a moment to consider what he was doing. Haru had turned his world upside down only a few hours ago and Makoto was desperate and panting at the thought of him, laid out with a hand shoved down his pants, But Haru had told him to think about what he wanted, and good god, Makoto wanted.

“H-Hah,” Makoto gasped as he slipped his hand into his boxers, trying to kick his jeans down but only managing to get them to his knees. He concentrated on the pieces of his dream still floating through his head and stroked his straining erection. Haru had been spread out on Makoto’s bed, beautiful dark hair fanned around his head as Makoto had leaned down and whispered his lips across pale skin, drawing soft sounds from Haru.

Haru,” Makoto moaned, dragging his fingers up his dick slowly and rubbing a thumb over the tip. Dream-Haru’s soft laugh as Makoto kissed a delicate hipbone fell over his ears and his whole body shuddered. Makoto rolled over and wrenched open a drawer in his bedside table, pushing aside pads of post-it notes blindly to reach a hardly-used bottle of lotion. He struggled with the cap, but managed to pop it open and pour a huge glob onto his hand before returning it to his dick, breath rushing out at the sudden cold against his heated skin. He landed heavily on his back and Dream-Haru took the chance to crawl over him, staring down at him with darkened eyes. Makoto wasn’t able to tell where his fantasy ended and reality began.

Dream-Haru’s hand wound through the coarse hair visible above Makoto’s boxers, and Makoto’s free hand followed, sending sparks of arousal straight through his stomach. He shoved his boxers down and sloppily coated his erection in lotion before starting to rub a hand over it slowly. His other hand pushed his shirt up his chest to his armpits and brushed a nipple, drawing a sharp cry from Makoto’s mouth. Dream-Haru licked over the bud, teasing it slightly with his teeth and Makoto’s breath came louder and heavier. An elegant but strong hand wrapped around his on his dick, and together they pumped faster until heat coiled low in Makoto’s belly. Haru leaned over, tongue tracing the shell of Makoto’s ear and he could feel it—

Makoto,” Haru whispered, “Please, for me?”

Makoto whined and dream-Haru pulled up to capture his lips in a searing kiss, and it was just as desperate as it had been the night before. Makoto pumped his dick with everything he had, pre-cum dribbling to mix with the lotion as he arched up with a head full of Haru’s voice and Haru’s skin.

“Hah—Ha—aru!” he forced out between pants. Dream-Haru’s tongue traced over the same spot on Makoto’s neck that he had left the mark on Haru’s, and Makoto’s other hand shook as he lowered it to cup his balls. Dream-Haru’s breath rushed over his ear.

Come for me,”

Makoto’s hoarse yell tore from his throat as his orgasm ripped through his body, spurts of cum landing on his stomach and t-shirt. His chest rose and fell rapidly, shocks of pleasure flashing up his spine and behind his eyelids. A tiny smile stole across his face. He felt content, boneless, and more relaxed than he had in weeks. Wearily he pulled his t-shirt fully off and used it to clean up the mess on his chest before throwing it to the floor, followed soon by his jeans.

Everything felt syrupy smooth and warm as Makoto stretched out on his bed in his boxers. His hand bumped into the tube of lotion and he rolled over to throw it back in the drawer. He stopped when he caught sight of the pads of post-it notes. A small twinge of panic sparked in his chest despite the heaviness of his limbs and he fell back on the bed with a huff.

Haru was convinced Makoto was stressed to the point of needing help. He had seen through the mess of post-it notes and careful smiles that held the illusion of Makoto’s life together and found something that Makoto hadn’t dared to touch. His world had been structured for so long that he honestly couldn’t picture it any other way. He had a system, and it worked for him.

You’re fooling YOURSELF!

Makoto squeezed his eyes shut, desperate to hold on to the last of the heady warmth trickling from his body as doubt and guilt unfurled in its place. He was fine, he was always fine, nothing was wrong, he was fine

His breathing grew shallow and Makoto wanted to scream in frustration because this couldn’t be happening, not again.

“I am fine,” Makoto whispered to the empty room. “I am fine. I am fine,”

His ears rang and the walls tilted curiously. He curled into a tiny ball on his side, shivering but entirely too warm, and the air was too thick, why couldn’t he get any into his lungs? Makoto’s fingers twitched as he pulled the blanket back over himself, suddenly feeling more exposed than he had even while jacking off to Haru—

Oh, god. Haru.

Makoto’s entire body shook as guilt poured over him. He had fucking masturbated to Haru. Haru, who only wanted to help him. While it may have been true that Haru had been the one to come on to him first, Makoto still felt like the lowest piece of shit in the universe. What if Haru changed his mind? What if he had been lying to Makoto? What if he had seen how obvious Makoto had been with his feelings and was just pitying him?

Makoto’s chest threatened to crack open and tears burned down his face. It wasn’t true, Haru had told him, he had said in the plainest terms possible that he wanted Makoto, but the fact that it had happened did nothing to stop Makoto’s panic attack. And, no matter what Makoto wanted to believe, he was shaking like a leaf, sweating profusely, and undeniably having a full-blown panic attack.

Something clicked in his mind and before he could help it, Makoto was sobbing uncontrollably. His hands fisted into his blanket painfully, but he couldn’t tell if they were even his own hands anymore. Everything was wrong.

“Mako-chan?!”

Nagisa nearly kicked open his door as he barged inside. Makoto wanted to yell and kick him out, but his throat had closed off into a pinprick and it hurt to even think.

Makoto! Wha—“ Nagisa ran across the room and flung himself down, running his hands over Makoto’s shoulders, through his bangs, trying to peer into Makoto’s face. His eyes were wide and his mouth trembled as Makoto burrowed his head into his knees, still gasping with sobs. “What can I do?! Makoto? What’s going on?!”

“Na—gisa,” Makoto forced out, his voice muffled by the blanket.

“ What? What is it?” Nagisa’s voice cracked. His hand squeezed Makoto’s shoulder.

“He—he was right,” Makoto cried, and the words wouldn’t stop, “He was right, he was right, I was so fucking wrong, he was right,”

“Who?” Nagisa asked, “Who was right?” Makoto wanted to laugh, he wanted to punch the wall, he wanted—

Haru,” Makoto got out before he was wracked by another bout of full-body tremors. “Nagi—can you call him? Please? I need— to talk to him, I need to tell him. He was right,”

Nagisa nodded and ran from the room. With a positively herculean effort, Makoto forced himself to close his eyes and start to count.

“Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Out,” he whispered, and emptied his lungs completely. He held his breath as long as he could before inhaling slowly through his nose.

“Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Out,” Makoto was afraid to count silently. Hearing his own voice grounded him just enough to keep going.

“—just, I don’t know, I don’t get what he’s talking about but he’s crying, I’ve never seen him like… but he asked for you, so,” Nagisa’s voice echoed down the hallway and a moment later he was in Makoto’s doorway. “I’m going to give you to him, okay? Please, just… help him,” Nagisa held out Makoto’s flip phone, and Makoto’s hand trembled as he took it.

“Nagisa. Thank you,” he whispered, and Nagisa nodded wildly, scrubbing a hand across his eyes.

“Let me—please call if you need anything,” Nagisa said, looking lost. Makoto smiled at him, and Nagisa left the room and closed the door behind him. Makoto took a deep breath before lifting the phone to his ear.

“Haru,”

Makoto, oh my god,” Haru’s voice was pained, “What’s wrong? Are you alright?! What’s happening?”

“I’m fi—“ Makoto almost answered automatically. He cut himself off and snorted. “Haru. You’re right,”

“What?”

“You’re so right,” Makoto gripped the phone until he heard the plastic creak. “I’m… not fine,”

Makoto,”

“I’m not fine, Haru! I’m a big fucking mess and I’m having a panic attack right now because I want you so badly and I’m scared. Isn’t that stupid? I’m scared that you won’t want me when you realize how fucked my life is, because I’ve just realized how shitty it is,” Makoto couldn’t tell if he was laughing or crying. He exhaled heavily and counted under his breath.

“Makoto,”

“And you were right about how stressed I am. Do you know the last time I finished a to-do list?” Makoto’s heart pounded against his chest, “Because I don’t! I don’t know. And it actually hurts me to admit it! But I can’t stop, because what will happen then? I’ll lose track of everything! I’ll fail out of college! What will I do then? How could I live with myself?!”

Makoto,”

“And it’s so obvious, Haru. These panic attacks! I feel—“ Makoto’s breath caught in his throat and he took a moment to count. “I feel so stupid. I mean, how could I not see? I help people like this all the time, how could I not see myself?”

“MAKOTO,” Haru yelled, “STOP,”

Makoto blinked and a few more tears fell onto his blanket.

“B-but…”

“But nothing,” Haru’s voice was unyielding, “Are you counting?”

“Yes,”

“Good. Keep going. I’m coming over,”

“But—you said,” Makoto’s heart throbbed as he remembered Haru’s words from the previous night.

“Fuck what I said,” Haru growled. “I told you to figure your shit out. I think you got it,”

“I—“ Makoto hiccupped, “I don’t know what to do, Haru,”

“Makoto. You don’t have to solve all your problems alone. No one ever expected you to,”

“I… I know,” Makoto gulped, and he whispered, “So c—can you…”

“What?” Haru’s voice was soft.

“Will you… help me?” Makoto bit his lip, “Please?”

Yes,” Haru’s voice was thick, “God, Makoto. Of course,”

“O—okay,” Makoto couldn’t stop the tears that came with the enormous relief of Haru’s words. “Okay,”

“I’ll be there in ten, just keep counting. You can do this. I know you can pull through it,” Makoto heard rustling from the other end as Haru moved around.

“Thank you,” Makoto said weakly and used the already disgusting blanket to mop his face.

“See you soon, Makoto,”

“Bye, Haru,”

Makoto snapped the phone shut and slowly stretched out to rest on his back. He stared at the ceiling and continued to count. After what seemed like an age, his thundering heartbeat began to calm down. He refused to move from his bed until he stopped trembling a few minutes later. He sat up, breathing deeply, and cautiously swung his legs over the side. He felt like he had run a marathon. Or two.

“Mako-chan?” Nagisa knocked quietly at his door.

“You can come in,”

Nagisa opened the door, peering inside with big, watery eyes.

“Are you… is everything okay?” he asked, taking a hesitant step inside. Makoto braced himself and pushed off of the bed, walking forward to wrap Nagisa in a hug. He squeaked in surprise but brought his arms up to squeeze Makoto’s middle.

“Thank you,” Makoto murmured, squeezing back. Nagisa was one of his best friends, and Makoto owed him a lot. “For calling Haru. For making me work at the hotline. For everything,”

“Mako-chan, listen to you being so dramatic,” Nagisa giggled. “But you’re welcome. I hope you’re alright,”

“I might not be now, but I will be,”

“Good,” Nagisa patted him gently on the back. “Now, as much as I love you, Mako-chan, you’re more than half-naked and kind of grossly sweaty, so I’m going to let go,”

“Oh my god!” Makoto jumped back, hands flying down in an attempt to cover his boxers. “Holy shit, I completely forgot, I’m so sorry! Oh god,” He snatched his blanket off the bed and threw it around his shoulders. His face felt like it was on fire. “Oh my god,” Nagisa laughed.

“It’s fine, Mako-chan. I mean, even if you weren't friend-zoned into the next millennium, you’re not my type,” he said, wiggling his eyebrows obnoxiously, “even if you do look like you were carved straight out of a block of Grecian godliness,”

“Ugh, what does that even mean?” Makoto pulled the blanket up over his head. “You know what? Nevermind. I don’t want to know. I’m going to get dressed. Haru’s coming over any minute,” As if on cue, their unit’s doorbell rang. Makoto scrambled to his dresser and started pulling pairs of sweatpants out.

“You two are so in sync it’s scary,” Nagisa skipped out of his room as Makoto yanked an old v-neck over his head. “I’ll get the door. Please be dressed by the time I get back, I don’t need to see Haru tackle you or anything,”

Nagisaaaaa,” Makoto wailed, hopping on one foot while trying to get a pair of sweats on. The front door slammed shut, and Makoto took the opportunity to take a couple of deep breaths. He was exhausted despite having slept most of the day. His emotions had been all over the place and he was paying for it. Thankfully, the crippling anxiety that had gripped him a few minutes earlier had mostly abated, thanks to Nagisa’s strange sense of humor and Haru. Makoto felt a small amount of pride as he realized he had managed to work through a panic attack with only a slight bit of help from Haru. The front door opened and Makoto remembered to yank his sweatpants all the way on.

“Makoto?” Haru called from the living room. Makoto pressed a hand to his chest as the warm cotton feeling swirled to life at the sound of Haru’s voice.

“Here,”

Makoto heard rushed footsteps and Haru burst into his room, throwing his arms around Makoto before he could say anything else. His fingers dug into Makoto’s ratty v-neck and Makoto could feel his chest heaving.

“Haru,” Makoto said gently, pulling his arms from Haru’s grasp to settle around his shoulders. “You didn’t run all the way here, did you?” Haru mumbled something into the front of Makoto’s t-shirt. “What?”

Stupid,” Haru hissed, pulling his face back just enough to glare daggers at Makoto. “Of course I ran all the way here, I was fucking worried about you,”

“Oh,”

“Yeah, oh,” Haru blew his sweaty bangs out of his face. “You look much better than you sounded on the phone,”

“I... I think I managed to calm down. On my own,” Makoto’s breath rushed out as Haru smiled widely.

“Good. That’s a big step,” Haru rubbed a hand reassuringly down Makoto’s back. He sighed, and buried his nose in Haru’s hair.

“It was hard,” Makoto whispered, “I’m so tired,”

“I’m proud of you,”

“For what?”

“For figuring it out. For having the strength to finally accept your stress,”

Makoto screwed his eyes shut. He felt like he had already cried enough for three lifetimes.

“I don’t feel strong,” he mumbled. Haru pulled back, pinning Makoto in place with his eyes.

“You are the strongest person I know,” Haru said firmly, stealing the air from Makoto’s lungs. “It’s easier to ignore problems and pretend they don’t exist. Facing them head-on takes some real stuff. Right here,” Haru tapped his hand on Makoto’s chest. “You’ve got it. I knew you did,”

“Thank you,” Makoto leaned his forehead down against Haru’s. They stood quietly for a minute, savoring the rare moment of peace.

“So,” Haru was the first to move away. Makoto tried not to pout as Haru’s arms returned to his own jacket pockets. “Do you think you’d be okay to go somewhere with me? Nothing crazy, I promise. There shouldn’t even be people there,”

“I don’t know, Haru…” Makoto balked at the thought of leaving his bedroom, let alone venturing out into the world.

“Do you trust me?”

“Of course,”

“Then come on,” Haru hesitated for a moment before reaching out a hand. “It’s my turn to surprise you,”

Makoto’s heart soared as he took Haru’s hand. It was sweaty and shaking slightly, but Makoto thought it couldn’t have been more perfect.

“Okay,”

--

The sun was setting by the time they reached campus. Makoto felt the chill settle in through his jacket, and he moved to walk closer to Haru.

“Where are we going?”

“You’re worse than I was,” Haru grumbled, “Surprise, remember?”

“I know, I’m just,” Makoto shivered, “It’s getting cold out,”

“You’d think someone as big as you would be able to stay warm,” Haru said, “Here,” He slipped a hand into Makoto’s pocket and entwined their fingers together. Makoto blushed straight down the back of his neck. He looked over and found Haru looking anywhere but him, cheeks bright red.

“O-oh. Thanks,” Makoto fumbled over his words. Haru squeezed his hand and it warmed him straight through to his toes. They continued to walk through campus, Haru leading the way. Makoto watched him out of the corner of his eye, captivated by the way the fading sunlight painted dark hair in hues of red. Haru glanced up at him with the slightest frown.

“You okay?”

“Yeah,” Makoto smiled, and it felt real for the first time in weeks. “I’m… happy. Which may be weird, considering my life kind of fell apart around me and I just finished off a panic attack, but… I feel so light. It’s nice,” Haru’s eyes softened.

“I’m glad,” he said quietly. Makoto brushed his thumb along Haru’s cold fingers and felt a flicker of satisfaction as Haru shivered. He kept rubbing slowly, delighting in how tense Haru was getting at a simple touch.

“Cold?” Makoto asked innocently.

“You dick,” Haru grumbled, but there was no anger behind it. “We’re almost there. Calm down,”

“Where are we going?” Makoto asked again. Haru nudged him with his shoulder.

“Shut up. Come on,” Haru pulled him towards the entrance to the athletic center. The building was empty save for a couple of weary-looking students wandering out. Haru ignored them and pushed past the doors, making an immediate turn down a side hallway. Most of the lights had been turned off, and Makoto glanced around nervously.

“Haru, are you sure we can be in here? I think they’re closing the building,”

“It’s fine,” Haru dragged Makoto along by the hand. “Trust me,” He turned into a small staircase and led Makoto down. Their footsteps echoed loudly down the empty hallways.

“Are you sure?”

“Positive,”

Haru stopped in front of an unmarked door and let go of Makoto’s hand to dig around in his pockets. Makoto looked nervously up at the dim lights. He heard a small jingle and glanced back down to see Haru calmly going through a ring of keys before finding the correct one. Makoto’s eyebrows shot up.

“Haru, what… where did you get those?” he asked. Haru rolled his eyes and opened the door.

“I found them inside the Holy Grail. Come on, genius. I work here,” Haru sighed, and grabbed Makoto’s wrist to pull him into the darkness.

“Oh,” Makoto didn’t even know Haru had a job. Haru clearly knew where he was going though, and was able to navigate the room even in the pitch black.

“Dork,” Haru’s voice said with a small laugh. “Now, where the fuck’s that—oh wait, here it is,” Makoto heard another door open and was suddenly hit with a wave of warmth and a smell that sent him straight back to middle school.

“Chlorine… Haru,” Makoto found himself breathing deeply, feeling the familiar burn in his nose. Haru slipped his hand down to grasp Makoto’s again, and Makoto swore his heart was going to explode. “You… you brought me—“

“To the pool, yes, Sherlock,” Haru flicked on a set of lights and Makoto looked out over the university’s pool, the surface so still it looked like glass. The lane lines were rolled up on spools and tucked in the corner of the pool deck, leaving the entire expanse unbroken. Makoto was seized with the childlike urge to run and jump into the pool, making the biggest splash possible. The water filter’s quiet hum filled the room.

“Haru,” Makoto whispered, “Are you really sure we’re supposed to be here?”

“Relax, Makoto,” Haru led him through the door onto the deck. “I work as a lifeguard here on weekends. It’s fine. I mean, I haven’t gotten in trouble yet at least,”

Yet!?” Makoto yelped, “Haru! I knew it! We’re breaking and entering, oh my god, we’re going to get kicked out of school—“

Makoto,” Haru grabbed his shoulders and shook him, “We’re not going to get kicked out. I asked my boss ages ago if I could practice after hours. He had heard about my history with swimming. I think he said yes hoping that one day I’d want to join the university team,” Makoto watched as Haru’s face turned thoughtful.

“Oh. Well,” Makoto relaxed a bit while Haru chewed on his lip. “Have you thought about joining?”

“No,” Haru replied immediately, and then winced. “Well, I mean, I haven’t actually thought about it that much. A couple of weeks ago I was too busy being fed up with everyone to consider joining anything. Now…” He shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ll have to ask the water,”

Makoto blinked at him, opening his mouth to ask a question, and thought better of it. He shook his head with a small smile.

“You’re really something, you know that?”

“If by something, you mean a grumpy, antisocial insomniac, then yes, I know,” Haru deadpanned. Makoto snorted.

“But really,” Makoto said seriously, bringing a hand up to cup Haru’s jaw, “You… you’re incredible. I’m lucky to know you,”

“You’re exaggerating,”

“I don’t deserve you,”

“Shut up,” Haru’s eyes burned brightly and Makoto’s heart stuttered. “You deserve a hell of a lot more than just me. But that’s all I’ve got to offer,” Haru placed his hand over Makoto’s, “So you have me. All of me,”

Makoto pressed his forehead against Haru’s, closing his eyes as the words settled deep in his chest and sparked into the beginnings of a flame. He was floating, he was burning, but it was okay because he had Haru and Haru would catch him and carry him and allow him to help in return.

“Y—you,” Makoto’s voice cracked and he swallowed thickly, “You know it’s the same for me, right? You have to know,” Haru nodded.

“You make me better,” Haru whispered.

“Can I…?” Makoto took a step forward and tilted Haru’s head up slightly.

Yes, you fucking dork,”

Makoto brought his other hand up to frame Haru’s face and brushed the lightest of kisses across his mouth. Haru let out a soft sigh and Makoto surged forward, sealing their lips together. Haru ran a hand up Makoto’s neck and brushed the soft hairs at the base of his skull, sending sparks shooting through his body. He licked at Haru’s bottom lip, seeking to deepen the kiss, but he felt Haru smirk against him and pull away.

“Not that I’m not enjoying this,” he murmured, lips a hair’s breadth from Makoto’s, “but I brought you here for a reason,”

“What?” Makoto tried to think even though his mind was occupied with thoughts of Haru’s skin and how it felt beneath his hands. He blinked and found the space in front of him suddenly empty and several times colder than he remembered. “Haru?”

“We’re swimming. Hurry up,” Haru was already at the pool’s edge, stripping his clothes off faster than Makoto thought was humanly possible.

HARU!” Makoto wailed, blushing furiously. Haru raised an eyebrow. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

“I’m wearing jammers, it’s fine,” Haru gestured to his purple and black swimsuit.

“You wore them… underneath your clothes?” Makoto gaped, trying but failing not to gape at the rest of him as well. Haru was all sleek lines and powerfully compact muscles, nearly the opposite of Makoto himself. Haru shrugged and Makoto’s eyes followed the skin shifting over his shoulders.

“They’re practically underwear anyway. Why not?”

“Well, I didn’t happen to wear a suit under my pants, so looks like I’m out of luck,”

Haru smirked. “Just swim in your boxers. Like I said, practically underwear,”

“H—Haru! I can’t do that!” Makoto spluttered, blush spreading to the tips of his ears.

“Well, you could just swim naked,” Haru’s eyes trailed down his body and Makoto swore he could feel them burning holes through his clothes.

“Nope, boxers will do fine, thank you,” Makoto turned away as he peeled his jacket and v-neck off. The humid pool air clung to his skin pleasantly and he tried not to notice Haru watching him closely. “Do you mind?”

“Nope,” Haru’s grin was wicked, “Not at all,”

Twerp,” Makoto muttered, slipping his shoes and pants off and kicking his clothes into a pile. Haru’s gaze raked down his legs and Makoto shivered.

“What’d you call me?”

“You heard me, twerp,”

“Oh yeah?” Haru walked toward him, eyes flashing. “You’ll pay for that, Tachibana. Your language is out of control,” Makoto grinned and dropped into a crouch.

“You’ll have to catch me first!” he yelled, and sprinted toward the pool, letting out a whoop as he did a massive cannonball, shattering the pristine surface and splashing Haru dead in the face. Makoto laughed at Haru’s shell-shocked expression and started swimming away toward the middle off the pool.

“YOUR ASS IS TOAST!” Haru yelled, running to the edge and executing a perfect dive, covering half of the distance between them in a matter of moments. Makoto yelped, breaking into a botched form of backstroke in an attempt to escape. Haru swam the entire way underwater and grabbed one of Makoto’s ankles, pulling him under in a rush of bubbles. Makoto kicked out of his grasp and burst to the surface, laughter echoing through the room. Haru poked his eyes above the water, blowing angrily little bubbles just beneath the surface. Makoto treaded water, waiting for his next move.

Haru took a deep breath, and the next thing Makoto knew Haru had sent a massive wave of water crashing over his head. Makoto gasped, wiping his hair out of his eyes, and tried to splash him back. Haru slipped underwater to dodge, swimming underneath Makoto and attacking him from the other side.

Haru!” Makoto yelled through his laughter, trying to shield his face and stay above water at the same time. Haru’s delighted laugh mixed with his, and Makoto couldn’t remember a time where he had felt so free.

He brought his legs up and waited to see where Haru would surface next, kicking a giant spray of water into his face when he came up. Haru spluttered, shielding his eyes with a hand.

“No fair! Using your legs is cheating!” he said, peeking between his fingers. Makoto didn’t relent.

“I’m sorry, and whose rules are those?”

“They’re just… the rules!” Haru pouted as Makoto finally let off and swam away lazily.

“Too bad,” Makoto said happily, watching his hands swirl about underwater. Why had he ever stopped swimming? Haru pulled up closer to him with a tiny smile as Makoto flicked water at him with his pointer finger.

“It helps, doesn’t it?” Haru murmured, “The water,”

Makoto realized with a jolt he hadn’t thought once about his anxiety since jumping in the pool with Haru.

“It does,” Makoto nodded, “But it’s not just the water. It’s you, too,” Haru looked away, embarrassed.

“Try… float on your back and put your ears underwater. Close your eyes,” Haru said, circling around Makoto until he reached a point where he could touch the ground. “Please,”

Makoto stretched out, using his hands as paddles to stabilize himself as he leaned back. “You’re not gonna pull me under as soon as I do this, right?”

“Promise,” Haru said with a tiny smile.

“Okay,” Makoto lowered his ears underwater, wincing as cold water rushed into them. The discomfort vanished within seconds though, and Makoto was left with nothing but the feeling of water on his skin and silence. He breathed in through his nose, holding it automatically before exhaling deeply.

Slowly, the tension that had built in his muscles for weeks began to bleed out, almost as if the water was washing it away. Makoto found his breaths getting slower and larger, and if he wasn’t floating face-up in a pool he might have fallen asleep. He felt the water ripple against his exposed skin and he smiled.

This. This was what Haru meant. This was the water helping him.

He straightened up, shaking the warm water from his ears. Haru watched him, worrying his lip between his teeth.
“Did you… do you get it?” he asked quietly. Makoto swam up to him and brought a thumb to the trapped lip and gently pulled it from between Haru’s teeth. Haru’s mouth fell open slightly and his eyes flickered down to Makoto’s lips and back.

“I get it,” Makoto said as he stood up in the water, looking earnestly into his eyes, trying to convey to Haru that he did, even if there weren’t words for it. “Thank you,” He pressed a kiss above Haru’s eyebrow and tasted chlorine. “Thank you,” Another kiss, to his cheekbone. Haru’s eyes fell shut. “Thank you for everything,” Makoto brushed his thumb across Haru’s lip once more before leaning down for a heated kiss. Haru pulled him closer and deepened the kiss, slipping his tongue past Makoto’s lips and dancing along the inside of his teeth.

Makoto groaned, twining his tongue with Haru’s and sliding his hands down Haru’s back, feeling dizzy with the play of muscles beneath his fingers. Haru drew Makoto’s tongue into his mouth and sucked on it, causing arousal to pool low in his stomach. God, how had Haru gotten so good at this? Makoto felt his dick stir attentively and pried himself from Haru, mouths separating with a small pop that did nothing to calm his raging pulse.

“Haru,” Makoto panted. “Not here,” Haru nodded, pressing one more kiss to Makoto’s mouth.

“Did I mention how glad I am that I called you that first night?” he said as they swam to the edge and pulled themselves out. Haru shook the water from his hair and stared at Makoto, pupils blown wide. He watched a drop of water travel down Makoto’s chest, riveted. “Because I am so, so glad,”

“Really?” Makoto couldn’t look away from where Haru’s hair was stuck to his neck, desperate to fit his lips to the same spot.

“I would love to show you how glad I am,” Haru said, and the words went straight to Makoto’s dick. His heart skipped a beat and he hurried to put his clothes on, forgetting completely about his soaking boxers. Haru was in a similar state, and wound up pulling his shirt on backwards.

“I am entirely okay with that plan,” Makoto managed to get out as he yanked his jacket over his shoulders.

“Lead the way, then.”

“My place?”

“Yes,”

“Race you there?” Makoto teased. Haru’s eyes glinted at the challenge.

“You could only hope to win,”

Makoto grabbed his hand and pulled him in for a soul-crushing kiss. Haru was smiling when they broke apart, and Makoto beamed at him.

“We’ve both already won,”

Chapter Text

“I swear, I’m not this clumsy,”

“Makoto, I think both of us know you are the definition of clumsy,”

Makoto couldn’t hide the smile on his face even as he dropped the apartment key for the third time.

Shit,” He rubbed his freezing hands together and bent down to pick it up. Haru watched him from beneath raised brows, crouched over and attempting to catch his breath. The hallway echoed with the sound of their heavy breathing and Haru’s barely stifled laughter. They had indeed raced the entire way back to Makoto’s apartment, wet suits and boxers be damned, and though Makoto had tried his hardest, Haru had won by half a block. It wasn’t until they had stopped and his fingers started to tingle that Makoto realized he was completely winded and an absolute icicle.

He frowned in concentration as he attempted for the fourth time to unlock his apartment. His fingers were puffy frozen sausages and just about as useful. They shook, not entirely from the cold, as he finally managed to fit the key in the lock.

“Oh thank god,” Haru huffed. Makoto stuck his tongue out at him as he turned the key and pushed open the door, sighing happily at the warmth. Haru rushed in after him, breaking into a full-body shudder. “I was afraid my feet were going to fall off. I blame you if they’re frostbitten,”

“Me?!” Makoto shut the door behind them and looked around for signs of Nagisa and Rei. “It was your idea to go swimming without towels. Or suits. Or anything,” The apartment was dark, and Makoto waited for his eyes to adjust. He wondered when Nagisa had gone to bed. “Hey Haru. What time is it?”

“I don’t know, late?”

Makoto walked toward the dim outline of the couch and felt around for a moment before he found where he had thrown his phone hours earlier.

“Haru. Isn’t it… tonight is Wednesday, isn’t it?” Makoto flipped open his phone and found several message notifications waiting. He clicked past them and felt his stomach drop as he read the time. “It’s Wednesday. It’s 10:06 PM.”

“Wednesday,” Haru repeated, much closer than Makoto had thought he was. “Doesn’t that mean…”

“It means I’m supposed to be at the hotline in two hours,” Makoto fell heavily onto the couch, ignoring the uncomfortable shift of his still-damp boxers, and ran a hand through his hair. He thought of the claustrophobic cubicle and shivered. “Haru. I do want to help people. Really, I do. But—” Makoto paused to take a deep breath, “I just don’t think I can tonight. I need… I need some time to accept my own problems before I can feel confident helping others again,”

“Makoto, you don’t have to justify your feelings to me,” Haru said, and Makoto felt the couch dip as Haru sat next to him. “If you don’t think you can do it, then don’t do it. That doesn’t make you a bad person,”

“But,” Makoto ran his fingers over the buttons of his phone, “it feels… like I’m giving up,” He jumped as Haru placed a tentative hand on his back.

“Think about it this way,” Haru said as he rubbed small, comforting circles over Makoto’s shoulder blades. “What advice would you give yourself if you called the hotline?”

“If it makes you so uncomfortable, don’t do it,” Makoto sagged into Haru’s touch. “You should work the hotline, Haru, you’re really good at this,” Haru snorted.

“And listen to people complain about their problems all night? No way,” Haru scratched lightly at Makoto’s back and he shivered.

“You sound just like Rin,” Makoto huffed out a small laugh. Haru continued to scratch his back and warmth dripped deep into Makoto’s belly.

“Rin?”

“One of my coworkers. Actually,” Makoto clicked back to his messages, “I should ask him to cover for me. He complains all the time, but it’s all hot air. He loves it,” Haru hummed quietly. Makoto opened the new messages that he’d ignored earlier.

From: Rin, 12:56PM 10/22/2014
[Srsly Makoto, u alright??]

From: Rin, 1:12PM 10/22/2014
[Literally dude, u can talk to me if you need to]

From: Rin, 6:08PM 10/22/2014
[Okay at this point I just need to know if you’re alive TEXT ME BACK]

Makoto felt a bit guilty as he dialed Rin’s number. Rin picked up almost immediately after the first ring.

“I SWEAR TO GOD, YOU’D BETTER BE OKAY BECAUSE I’M GONNA KICK YOUR ASS,”

“Hi to you too, Rin,” Makoto held the phone away from his ear and Haru laughed behind his hand.

“Seriously, Tachibana. I’ve been worried about you all day, you dick. Sousuke’s had to talk me down, like, five times from finding your apartment and banging down the door. You know how easy it is to send one text? Just one?”

“I’m touched,” Makoto said, “But actually, I need your help,” There was silence for a beat before Rin spoke up quietly.

“Makoto, what’s wrong? What can I do?”

“I…” Makoto took a carefully measured breath, “I’ve had kind of a rough day. And I was hoping… maybe you could cover the hotline for me tonight. Please,”

“Rough day? Makoto, this is the first time you’ve asked me for help. Ever,” Rin said angrily. “What happened?”

“I’ll tell you later, promise. I just… I can’t do it. Not tonight,”

“Fine,” Rin sighed, “I can cover for you. But the next time I see you, I better hear it all, got it?”

“Rin, thank you. You have no idea—“

“And you owe me like a thousand favors. I’ve got a couple of things that come to mind,”

“That’s fine,” Makoto felt like iron bands around his chest had loosened and fallen off. “Thank you,”

“Yeah, yeah. Now go get better or whatever,”

“See you later,”

“Bye, Tachibana,”

Makoto snapped his phone shut and let out a long breath. Haru ran his hand back and forth over Makoto’s back.

“Feel better?” he asked.

Makoto nodded. He had assumed he would feel terrible and guilty, but all he felt was a profound sense of relief. “A lot better,”

“Good,” Haru’s fingers slid up and teased the fine hair at the nape of his neck. Makoto’s breath caught in his throat. Haru’s thumb traced slowly up and down the very back of his neck and an embarrassing breathy sigh escaped Makoto’s lips.

“Yeah… good,” he mumbled, eyes falling shut. The couch shifted as Haru moved closer, pressing their legs together.

“Hey, Makoto,” Haru murmured, his mouth scarce inches away. Makoto flushed as hot air tickled over his ear and sent shocks rippling down his spine.

“Mm, what… Haru?” Makoto whispered. His head tilted back as Haru’s thumbnail dragged lightly down his neck. Haru’s lips traced over the shell of his ear and Makoto felt a flush spread across his cheeks and down his neck.

“Makoto, are you okay… with this?” Haru’s thumb stilled. “You’ve been through a lot today. You need to tell me right now if you want this,” He pulled away slightly, and Makoto blinked at the cooler air. He looked over at Haru, who was staring at his lap with a wrinkle deep between his eyebrows. Makoto’s heart ached, and he reached up to cradle Haru’s face between his hands. Haru’s breath stilled as Makoto smoothed his thumbs over the tense brow, finally, finally getting rid of the crease that had bothered him since the first time he saw it. Makoto waited until Haru met his gaze before replying.

I want this,” he said firmly, “Have wanted this. Will want this. I want you, Haru,” All the apprehension evaporated from Haru’s face. Makoto stood, holding a hand out with a smile.

“Makoto, what—“

“Come on,” Makoto said. Haru took a hold of the offered hand and followed Makoto as he led them down the hallway. Makoto’s hands were sweaty and trembling. His heartbeat pounded in his ears as he opened his bedroom door and pulled Haru inside. Haru closed the door quietly behind them and turned to Makoto.

“Are you sure?” Haru asked once more, squeezing Makoto’s hand.

“I’m sure. I’m just—“ Makoto ran his free hand through his hair. “I’m just nervous,” he admitted to the floor in a tiny voice.

“Me too. But…” Haru’s voice faded out. Makoto took a shaky breath and looked up into Haru’s face. The determination he saw behind blue eyes knocked the air from his lungs. “With you it’s worth it,”

Makoto walked backwards, leading Haru with him by their joined hand. His legs hit his bed and he sat down, grimacing as he was reminded once again of his damp underwear. Haru smiled down at him.

“Ugh, Haru, aren’t you uncomfortable too?” Makoto asked, squirming around. “It feels gross,”

“Used to it,” Haru said with a shrug. “I could… I can help, if you want,” His eyes darkened and Makoto’s entire body thrilled. Wordlessly, he moved back further on the bed and lowered himself down, giving Haru’s hand a sharp tug. Haru yelped as he fell over Makoto, managing to catch himself with a hand on either side of Makoto’s shoulders. Makoto’s eyes followed as Haru’s tongue darted out to wet his lips and he found himself copying the motion. He flushed all the way down his chest as Haru’s mouth fell open and Makoto pushed himself up his elbows, desperate to feel Haru’s warm breath on his skin, on his lips, to follow that tongue with his own—

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Haru mumbled, and pressed his lips to Makoto’s. Makoto whimpered, and Haru gently pushed him down to rest on his back, sliding their lips together. Makoto’s hands shook as he rested them on Haru’s sides, brushing over sharp hipbones. Haru hummed from deep in his chest and drew Makoto’s bottom lip between his own, tugging at it lightly. Makoto’s lips parted in a sigh and Haru dove forward, licking his way into Makoto’s mouth. His tongue dragged across Makoto’s and he groaned, tightening his hands around Haru’s back and pulling him down flush against Makoto. Makoto’s head spun at the feeling of Haru’s body draped over him, with the arms on either side of his shoulders sheltering him and keeping him grounded.

Makoto brushed his fingers under the hem of Haru’s t-shirt, tracing the small dimples at the base of his spine. Haru sighed into Makoto’s mouth and the sound sent goosebumps down his arms. The air around them was electric; snapping with potential and heat. He grabbed at the hem of Haru’s shirt and pulled it up impatiently, wanting more of Haru’s skin beneath his fingers. Haru broke their kiss with a laugh, sitting back on Makoto’s thighs to pull his own shirt off. Makoto watched, entranced by the muscles shifting beneath pale skin and the way Haru’s kiss-swollen lips spread over a smile. Haru threw his shirt to the side and Makoto reached for the dip of his abdominal muscles, fingers itching to know every inch of the beautiful man before him. Haru batted it away, reaching instead for Makoto’s v-neck.

“You too,” he murmured. His voice was low and husky and lit up Makoto’s nerves like wildfire. Makoto raised his arms, allowing Haru to peel the shirt away and throw it to the floor. Makoto blushed as Haru’s blue eyes raked over his chest, getting more and more embarrassed as the seconds ticked by.

Haru,” Makoto whined, covering his eyes. Haru grabbed his hand away and kissed the palm.

“You’re so hot, Makoto,” Haru whispered against his palm, brushing his lips across Makoto’s fingers. “It’s unfair,”

“I…I—” Makoto gasped as Haru’s tongue darted out and wrapped around his middle finger. “God, Haru,” Haru’s eyes glittered as he drew Makoto’s finger into his mouth and sucked, sending all the blood in Makoto’s body to his groin. Makoto panted heavily as Haru released his finger with a wet pop, and guided the hand to his chest. Makoto’s fingers twitched against Haru’s skin.

Touch me, Makoto,” Haru breathed, running his hands down to frame Makoto’s face and kiss him deeply. Makoto was momentarily distracted at the heady sensation of their tongues intertwining, but ran his hand across Haru’s chest, leaving a glistening trail of Haru’s own spit across the powerful muscles. He brushed over a nipple and Haru’s whole body jerked as he keened into Makoto’s waiting mouth. Makoto rolled the small nub between his fingers, delighting at the sounds spilling from Haru. He brought his other hand up to tease Haru’s other nipple and Haru broke away from the kiss to let out a deep moan. Makoto’s dick twitched and he decided wanted to hear that sound again. As many times as possible. Haru rolled their hips together and Makoto saw stars.

Haru pressed a kiss to the underside of Makoto’s jaw and dragged his hands down to Makoto’s nipples. Makoto arched up, whimpering, as warmth and energy flooded his body at Haru’s touch. Haru smirked against his neck and slowly crawled down until his mouth hovered over Makoto’s right nipple. He flicked it lightly with his tongue and bit down, causing Makoto to let out a strangled yell as heat jolted straight to his cock. Haru teased the bud relentlessly, continuing to pinch the other between his fingers. His other hand reached down and flicked open the button of Makoto’s pants. He lifted his head and Makoto sagged against the bed, chest heaving.

“Last chance to say no,” Haru whispered, rubbing his nose just above Makoto’s bellybutton, pulling the zipper of his jeans down torturously slowly and Makoto was gone.

Please,” he moaned, and Haru had his pants off in a flash, burying his nose in the hair above his boxers. Makoto was reminded of how earlier this very night he had been jerking off to an incredibly similar fantasy, but the thought flew from his head as Haru’s hand closed around his dick through his damp boxers. “Haru,”

“These have got to be uncomfortable,” Haru’s finger dragged down the outline of his cock and Makoto’s hips jerked up. “Take them off,” Makoto nodded shakily and reached down, trying to peel off the fabric sticking to his hips. He struggled for a moment before letting out an annoyed whine. Haru laughed and pulled them down in one swift motion. His cock throbbed as it sprang free, nearly fully erect. Makoto hissed at the cool air against the skin still damp with pool water and sweat. Haru’s fingers danced over the ticklish crease between his legs and hips and Makoto strained his muscles to keep from thrusting into empty air.

“So fucking hot,” Haru whispered, leaning down to place a small kiss where his fingers had just been. Makoto felt like he was on fire. Haru sucked a bit of skin into his mouth, biting down to leave a mark and Makoto’s head flew backwards as he bit his lip to stifle a cry.

Hah—Haru,” Makoto panted, “Please,”

“What?” Haru breathed at the tip of his cock, warm breath mixing with the moisture already there, and Makoto was going to break in half— “What do you want, Makoto?”

“Youyouyou I want you, I want your mouth on me, I want—AH!” Makoto cried out as Haru’s mouth slid down his dick, energy crackling like fireworks deep in his belly. Haru stopped halfway down and hummed, and it was all Makoto could do to keep his hips from thrusting upward. Makoto looked down and met Haru’s eyes, darkened and half-hidden behind black bangs. He groaned loudly. “Haru, holy shit,”

Haru pulled off and licked a wide stripe up the underside, kissing the tip before swirling his tongue over it. Makoto wound his hands into his blanket, unable to look away as Haru pulled his lips over his teeth and took as much of Makoto as he could into his mouth.

Haruharuoh my godHaru,” Words spilled from Makoto’s mouth in a steady stream as Haru hollowed his cheeks and sucked, drawing a moan from deep in Makoto’s chest. “Haru, shit, so fucking good, so beautiful,” Haru hummed at Makoto’s praise, starting to bob his head, and Makoto howled.

Every single one of his nerves was sparking uncontrollably, and Makoto could feel his stomach and balls start to tighten. “H-Haru, stop, I’m—“ Makoto reached for Haru’s hair and tried to pull him off, unprepared for Haru’s moan at the tug to his hair. Bolts of heat shot through his stomach. “Haru,” Makoto pleaded, and Haru lifted his head, spit smeared across his lips and down his chin. Makoto had to close his eyes and take a deep breath.

“What?” Haru’s voice was wrecked. Makoto ached for him to keep talking, to say anything in that voice that sent sparks down his limbs, but he had another goal in mind.

“Together,” Makoto reached for Haru’s pants, “I want to see you...I want to see you come. I want to do this together,” Haru blushed and looked away, wiping his mouth on his shoulder.

“Okay,” he whispered, sitting back and helping Makoto remove his pants, followed shortly by his jammers. Haru’s cock was flushed and leaking pre-cum. Makoto wrapped his fingers around it, giving a few experimental tugs. Haru’s head flopped against Makoto’s shoulder, heavy breaths fanning out over his skin.

“Haru,”

Makoto-oooh,” Haru moaned, and bit down slightly on Makoto’s collarbone. Makoto shifted to fall back against his pillows with Haru on top of him. They groaned as their hard cocks collided and Haru ground his hips into Makoto’s.

“Wait, I—“ Makoto scrambled to open the drawer in his bedside table and grab the bottle of lotion, coating his hand thoroughly before reaching down and grabbing both of them with the same hand.

Makoto,” Haru breathed, kissing up the side of his neck. Makoto started up a steady pace, the feeling of his and Haru’s erections in his hand causing his mind to whirl. Haru’s hand wound around his and they pumped together. Heat built between them, mixing with the current in the air until Makoto was convinced he would combust and burn into a thousand pieces. Makoto searched out Haru’s lips and pressed them together in a messy kiss, tongues sliding together as their motions became more erratic and hurried.

“Haru, I’m—“ Makoto mumbled into Haru’s lips, feeling the pressure build below his belly until it was ready to explode.

“Makoto, come,” Haru pulled away as Makoto fell apart, the pressure snapping and flooding his body with warmth as his cum splattered over his and Haru’s chests. Flashes of white danced around the edge of his vision but he watched Haru’s face as he followed shortly, mouth falling open as his orgasm ripped through him, his cum joining Makoto’s.

Haru managed to roll slightly to the side as he collapsed next to Makoto. The sound of their heavy breathing filled the room, and Makoto felt a smile tug at his lips despite his exhaustion. Haru lazily reached to the floor, grabbed Makoto’s v-neck, and wiped the cooling cum from their chests before tossing it back down and draping himself over Makoto’s side. Dark hair tickled Makoto’s shoulder, and Makoto reached up to run a hand through it. Haru hummed contentedly and burrowed his face into Makoto’s neck.

“You’re amazing,” Makoto whispered once he caught his breath. Haru grunted an affirmative. “But really. Amazing. Incredible,”

“Shut up, Makoto,” Haru smiled into the crook of Makoto’s neck. Makoto reached down and pulled the blanket over them as best he could.

“Goodnight, Haru,”

“Night, M’koto…” Haru mumbled, already half-asleep. Makoto drifted off soon after, buoyed by a sense of rightness and safety wrapped in Haru’s arms.

--

Makoto froze in the doorway to the kitchen.

“Good morning, Mako-chan,” Nagisa said cheerily, eating a pancake from a massive stack that Rei was consistently adding to from his station at the stovetop. His face nearly split in two with the force of his grin, and Makoto could see even Rei was having trouble keeping a smile from his face.

“Good morning, and I’m just gonna turn around and go back to bed now, bye—“ Makoto turned to leave and the flush of the toilet down the hall was deafening in the tiny kitchen. Nagisa’s grin got even wider and Makoto resisted the urge to slam his head into the doorframe repeatedly.

“Mako-chan,” Nagisa said conversationally, sticking a large piece of pancake in his mouth and chewing for a moment before continuing, “If you, me, and Rei-chan are here in the kitchen, then who, may I ask, just flushed the toilet?” Makoto’s cheeks burned.

“It’s… I… It’s,” His words were not cooperating, and Makoto looked down at the table to find four places already set. His eyes popped. “Oh my god, you knew, you… heard,”

“OH, Mako-chan,” Nagisa giggled, “We heard,” Rei’s face was nearly as red as Makoto’s, but that didn’t stop him from sniggering into the bowl of pancake batter.

“Heard?” Haru walked into the kitchen, dressed in some of Makoto’s old clothing. Makoto was momentarily distracted as Haru shifted the too-large shirt over his shoulders, exposing part of his collarbone. “Oh, last night. Sorry,” he said, waving a hand half-heartedly and sat next to Nagisa at the table, grabbing pancakes from the stack and looking around at the various toppings. “You guys don’t happen to have any fish, do you? Like mackerel?”

Makoto gaped. “What?”

“You know. Lives in water, has fins, tastes delicious with everything including pancakes?” Haru’s mouth quirked up in a tiny smile.

“Not that,” Makoto sat next to him, ignoring Rei as he bustled to the freezer in search of mackerel. Nagisa looked between them eagerly like he was watching a soap opera unfold in front of his eyes. “They heard? And all you said was ‘oh’?”

“I mean, it’s not like we can take it back or anything,” Haru shrugged, eyes gleaming in silent laughter. “I, for one, wouldn’t want to take it back anyway. Would you, Makoto?”

“That’s—“ Makoto spluttered, face turning twenty shades of red, “That’s not what I meant, I just… it’s so embarrassing,” He covered his mouth with his hand, praying for his blush to die down.

“Aww, Mako-chan, you guys are so cute!” Nagisa bounced happily in his chair and stuffed an entire pancake in his mouth.

“Nagisa, smaller pieces!” Rei chastised, closing the freezer empty-handed. “I’m so sorry, Haru, but it looks like we have no sort of fish at all. I will endeavor to fix that on my next trip to the grocery store,”

“That’s fine,” Haru cut off a piece of pancake and chewed it thoughtfully. “These are great anyway, Rei. Thanks,” Rei’s chest puffed out in pride and Nagisa smiled happily at him. Makoto was struck with such a strong sense of belonging that he paused with a cup of coffee halfway to his lips. Haru glanced over at him and his eyes softened. Makoto smiled back at him. He took a sip of coffee when suddenly a memory clicked into place in his mind. He lowered the cup to the table and fixed Haru with a questioning stare. Haru tugged on his shirt and looked around. “What?”

“When we first spoke. The very first phone conversation, “Makoto leaned forward, eyes narrowed. “You said you wanted to swim, but you couldn’t because the pool was closed,” Haru’s cheeks flushed red and he set his fork on his plate.

“Technically not a lie,” he said, “It was closed,”

“But you could have gone in anyway,” Makoto sat back in his chair, not moving his gaze from Haru. Nagisa was so far out of his chair he was practically on top of the table. “Why didn’t you?”

“Well it was late, and I decided to give the hotline a try first. You never know, right?” Haru rested his head on his hand. “And like I said, I’m glad that I did. Otherwise…” Haru’s foot brushed his underneath the table. “You’d still be lost. And I would be, too,”

Makoto blinked rapidly in surprise as tears pricked at his eyes. Nagisa let out a quiet ‘awwww’ and Rei sniffled from the stove. Haru’s hand found his and he laced their fingers together.

“Thanks, Haru,” Makoto whispered, and Haru squeezed his hand tightly.

“We may be two messed-up idiots, but together we’re two messed-up idiots that… help each other?” Haru frowned. “Wait, that came out wrong. Together we make each other not-as-dumb?” Makoto and Nagisa laughed and Haru looked away in embarrassment.

“You sound just as fumbly as Mako-chan, Haru-chan!” Nagisa said around another mouthful of pancake.

“I take it back, Makoto. You just make me sound stupider,” Haru grumbled, cheeks flushed an adorable shade of pink.

“But we’re two idiots together! It’s better that way!” Makoto struggled to keep a straight face. Haru kicked him under the table, but didn’t let go of his hand. Makoto squeezed it back. It was true that he and Haru still had a lot of things to deal with. The anxiety and stress would never go away for him, much the same as Haru’s insomnia would always be a part of his life. But they had each other. He and Haru had accomplished so much already, who could tell what their future might bring?

Makoto took another sip of coffee. Haru’s eyes met his shyly and he couldn’t help but smile. No matter what came, he found had a good feeling about it as long as Haru was by his side.