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~~oOo~~

The screen in front of him is currently flashing with an almost blinding white light, and Haruka has to squint to shield his eyes from the offending brightness. He blinks a few times, letting his pupils adjust to the incoming light that is far too intense for his tastes. Haruka sighs, grabbing the mouse to move the cursor while trying to figure out where the pre-installed web browser is.

If there is one thing in this world that Haruka would rather live without, it’s technology.

By technology, he means the more advanced, avant-garde type people use for leisure and entertainment, the kind that gets obsolete within a matter of months after its release because there’s always a ‘new and improved’ edition to follow. Tablets, laptops, smartphones… they are items that have now become so common, almost like household appliances, and Haruka knows of people who can literally drop dead if they were to live a day without these tools. Thankfully, he’s not one of them.

Take his electrical rice-cooker and griller away, however, and he might just pass out from the lack of his staple rice and mackerel.

Okay, so maybe not all technology is bad. Still, he doesn’t understand the appeal in endlessly scrolling down pages of pictures and words typed out in too small fonts, doesn’t see the point in spending hours and hours on the Internet doing absolutely nothing beneficial. He had seen some of the websites Nagisa always check during recess, something about updating status and replying to the never ending stream of comments. The cheerful brat has an idiotic grin on his face all the time while doing that.

It’s a lot of crap, really. Nagisa once forced him and Makoto to make a Facebook account, reasoning out that “it’s easier to keep in touch with friends and families, Haru-chan!” and “but you have to play Criminal Case, I swear, it’s really good!”. Haruka kept silent and responded with a blank stare, because the only ‘friends and families’ he has are Makoto, Nagisa, Rei and his parents (regardless how pathetic that sounds) and he would much prefer swimming over surfing the Internet any day. Surfing real waves, on the other hand, that’s something he’d like to try. Makoto though, being the gentle giant with a heart softer than pudding that he is, easily gave in to his childhood friend’s persuasion and signed up for Facebook. Now he’s already in the Pet Rescue Saga’s Top 20 ranks, and still climbing.

So yeah, when it comes to social networks, Nanase Haruka pretty much vowed that hell will probably freeze over before he actually stoop that low and succumb to peer pressure (aka Nagisa).

The rest of the world doesn’t share his opinion, though. Amakata-sensei, along with a few other classical literature teachers of Iwatobi High, came up with the notion that the students should utilize IT in their learning experience, and so had assigned them to research tasks. Each of them had to draw lots on which story they will have to work on, and of course, what is school assignment without long-ass analytical essays? To make things worse, fate is just hating on Haruka because Makoto got a different one.

Which means he’s on his own in this. Well, shit.

And that brings him to the current situation. Haruka finds the web browser after a few clicks and cut to the chase. Not bothering to explore any further, he starts typing ‘Genji Monogatari’ into the search box, and within a split second, thousands of results appeared. Haruka is used to scouring the library after school for research materials, spending hours and hours flipping through the pages while Makoto dozes off waiting. Compared to that, this is practically heaven. 

Okaaaayy, he has to begrudgingly admit that this thing is useful and somewhat magical. Still.

By the time he is done with the assignment, the digital clock on his shelf flashes a crimson 02:14 A.M, way past his usual bedtime. Haruka is sure the last time he’d felt this worn out was during that 100m freestyle race he reluctantly participated in a few years back. His eyes are now beyond sore, a pulsating ache throbs deep inside his sockets, and sleep suddenly sounds like the best thing ever after water and miso glazed mackerel steaks. He briefly wonders if Makoto is done with his ‘Kaguya Hime’ essay. The guy has always been good at literature and is far more tech-savvy than him anyway, so this thing is probably a no-brainer for him.

Crawling under the blanket for a well-deserved rest, Haruka sighs, swearing that he’s never touching the little device of the devils again.

 

But the universe, it seems, has other plans in store.


There is a loud commotion in the classroom that morning involving lots of squealing and screaming. Haruka really doesn’t want to know what has prompted the girls who were crowding around one table to act like 5-year-olds high on candies (not like they aren’t already always like that) but he can’t help knowing anyway, because the girls are yelling continuous narratives throughout watching whatever it is that’s tickling their fancies.

“Ohhh my god, he is sooo freaking cute!” One of the girls shouts just as Haruka finds his seat. A few of his other male classmates roll their eyes, and for once, Haruka shares their sentiment.

“I know! He’s such a babe, look, he even cried at the hugging scene!” They all go silent for a while, seemingly concentrating on the video before out of the blue, in perfect and downright creepy synchrony, the girls let out a chorus of “awwww!!”, swooning and sighing theatrically.

“Why can’t all boys be like him?”

Haruka is staring out the window at the falling leaves when he hears a boy ask loudly in an annoyed voice. “Like what, a crybaby?”

Instantly, the girls snap around to send deathly glares at the boy whom Haruka now notices is Tsukki, the outspoken guy in class known for his stinging sarcasm.

“No you jerk, a romantic! You guys don’t understand the true meaning of romance, at all!” Streams of agreement and complains follow, and it looks as if a fight is going to break out between the two groups. Luckily, class 2-A’s resident peacemaker and actual angel Tachibana Makoto is there to calm things down. Haruka observes as Makoto tries to fend off the onslaught of date proposals and love confessions that flood him right after the incident.

“See? Makoto-kun here is the perfect example of how guys should behave, you know?”

“Yeah! But I still think Rin-kun is cuter…”

The casually dropped name sounds awfully familiar. Haruka has no idea who the hell this ‘Rin-kun’ is, but if the girls fawn over him so much, then he must be a popular person or something. Probably an idol from a random boyband. Or even a good-looking cosplayer; girls are into that these days. Either way, it doesn’t concern his life, so he lets it go.


They’re having lunch at a quiet spot near the school’s swimming pool when Nagisa suddenly pipes up, merrily talking through a mouthful of his favourite ¥480 Iwatobi bread. Sometimes Haruka worries for the kid’s health. Eating too much sugary stuff is never a good thing. Mackerel is definitely the way to go.

“Mako-chan, Haru-chan,” Nagisa begins, cheeks still stuffed full with bread, some crumbs even spraying out as he speaks. Beside him, Rei is prepared with a speech on eating manners ready to roll off his tongue. “Have you checked out our latest video?”

Haruka casts a side glance at his friend. He already knows where this conversation is going. “Which video,” he asks, monotonous as usual.

“The candid camera one where we pranked Amakata-sensei with a frog in her bag!”

“Ah, that one,” Haruka says. He has absolutely no idea which video it was.

He’s not to be blamed, though, because there are tons of them, all uploaded weekly to the YouTube account Nagisa and Rei run together. Nagisa always comes up with the most bizarre ideas, ranging from reviewing new cake and dessert shops in the city to a guideline of silly ways to kiss, but they mostly revolve around food. Surprisingly, despite the simple, childish and at times immature contents of the videos, the channel is watched by quite a number of viewers. Haruka recalls Nagisa bragging about reaching 999 subscribers last month, and god knows how many there are now. Perhaps the people enjoy watching poor Rei slowly losing his insanity over his boyfriend’s antics and crazy eating skills.

Nagisa is sharp enough to see through Haruka’s deceptions. “Hmmm… You’re obviously lying, Haru-chan. You didn’t watch it, right?

“I did.” Haruka glares at Makoto to ask for backup help, but the green-eyed boy is already lost in the wonders of his mother’s home-cooked bento.

“Oh, reaaaally? Then tell me, what did Amakata-sensei do to the frog when she saw it?”

Damn. No wonder people say that one lie leads to another. “…. She--” Haruka pauses, wrecking his brain to seek for a viable response, finding none. Ugh, screw it all. “…threw it out the window.”

“Wrong! She stuffed it in the staff room’s fridge! Haru-chaaaaannn!!” Nagisa pouts cutely and wails, rubbing his blonde head against Haruka’s shoulder fervently to show his protest. The fact that their sweet teacher has just committed a blatant murder on an innocent animal goes unheeded.

“It was uploaded yesterday, wasn’t it? I think I saw it on my dash…” Great, Makoto, now you’re talking. “I’ll probably watch it tonight with Ran and Ren. They’re huge fans of their Nagisa-niichan and Megane-niichan.”

Upon hearing his nickname kindly given by the Tachibana twins, Rei splutters and chokes on his barley tea with the grace of a strangled swan. Which is, not really a beautiful sight. “Makoto-senpai, t-they’re still calling me that?!”

“Well, you’ve got to admit, it’s kinda endearing though,” Makoto chuckles, turning to look at Haruka and smile apologetically. “Haru, you want to watch with us?”

“No, thanks. I’ll pass.”

“Awwwww, you’re no fun, Haru-chan!”

“Haruka-senpai, I reckon that it would not hurt to at least watch one of our masterpieces… Oh, the aesthetics of filming are at its height in that video! Such a beautiful angle capturing the scenes discretely from between the shelves… such quality graphics that will blow your mind away!” Rei says dramatically. After realizing that he’s fallen into the ‘Drama King Rei’ mode again, he coughed to hide his embarrassment, carefully putting his chopsticks back into the box. Nagisa has turned his attention to silently snatching the octopus sausages from Rei’s lunch. “Besides, it will be a highly enjoyable watch, I can ensure you that. We will be very pleased and proud if you were to watch anything on our channel, Haruka-senpai.”

There’s that sparkle in his purple eyes, and who the hell can say no when Rei plays that ‘pure-hearted, admiring kouhai’ card?

Haruka holds his three friends’ hopeful gazes for a few seconds. Then, a small “okay" is the only thing he manages to say before he is tackled onto the ground and engulfed in a surprise group hug.


Nagisa and Rei end up following them back to Makoto’s place, wanting to witness the moment Haruka is converted to ButterPenguin143’s fan.

Bless whoever came up with the atrocious name.

The video is nothing short of wacky and eccentric, as expected of the duo. Apparently, Amakata-sensei was not one bit fazed by the slimy frog croaking at her the moment she opens her bag. Instead, like Nagisa pointed out, she picked it up without hesitation and threw it into the staffroom’s chiller, leaving it to freeze to death. Despite the adorable, doe-eyed look… she’s really not one to be messed with.

As soon as the screen turns to black and the little boxes of related videos pop out, Ran and Ren clap their hands in glee, glomping Nagisa in a warm embrace while singing and yelling praises. Makoto was certainly not lying when he said that the twins are die-hard fans. Rei smiles fondly at the sight, and was about to close the webpage when something catches Haruka’s eyes.

“Wait,” he says. “Click on the next one.”

Rei stares at the screen, surprised and confused. “Piudipai’s Octodad Adventures? My, my, Haruka-senpai, I’d never have guessed that you would be interested in such exquisi—“

“Not that, Rei. The waterfall one.” Haruka mutters, pointing towards the small box in the grid of recommended videos. Rei shrugs. He clicks on it, and it starts to play.

“Heeeeello everyone! We meet again! I’m Rin, and I’m here to bring you—“

“Uwah, it’s Rin-chan!” Nagisa shouts in an instant, barely able to contain his excitement. He lurches at the laptop and presses his face against the screen, letting out a small squeal.

“Rin-chan?” Makoto asks, patting the heads of his younger siblings when they come barreling into his arms. “You know him, Nagisa?”

“Yeap, it’s him! He’s the hottest YouTube star in Japan right now. See?” The blonde points at the view counts on the right -just above the fully-blue like/dislike bar- that reads 270,159. “His videos are really popular, and he’s so cool too!”

There are more conversations taking place in the room, and somewhere at one point Rei and Nagisa are bantering about who Ran likes more, but Haruka hears nothing. His eyes -now glinting with pure interest- are completely glued to the scenes unfolding on the screen, taking in each and every detail of the crystal clear waterfall that this Rin-chan (or SharkBoiUnleashed, whatever) is talking about right now.

 

“As you can see, the water here is perfectly unpolluted, and… Oh, c’mere!” The maroon-haired boy exclaims in enthusiasm, motioning the cameraman to come closer. “Fishes! Look, they’re so little and pretty… Their silver scales glow when it catches sunlight. Man, this place is awesome!”

 

Unconsciously, Haruka inches closer and closer, ultimately absorbed by the clip. He can feel it course through his body; the exhilaration at the thought of feeling the water enveloping his body.

Water is there, mere inches from his face, and calling out for him. He’s yearning for it, but it’s so close yet so far. No matter how spectacularly realistic-looking the waterfall is in the video, in the end, it’s only a digital representation of Water, not Water itself.

What a cruel invention this YouTube is.

He watches as SharkBoiUnleashed dives into the pristine icy water without bothering to remove his black tank-tops, and the way his laughter rings in the air as he swims makes Haruka’s heart clench tightly. All of a sudden, his chest consists of thousands of acrobats doing cartwheels and triple somersaults, and just before the clip ends, the boy playfully splashes water onto the camera lens, effectively knocking the breath out of Haruka’s lungs.

 

“So guys, here it is, the perfect place for an unforgettable date with your loved one! Romantic, isn’t it? Don’t forget to subscribe!”

 

The 6-minute video ends with one final wink from Rin, and Haruka is left dumbstruck.

 

What. In. The. World. Did he just watch.

 

Feeling disgruntled and unsatisfied like a child robbed of his candy, he grabs the mouse (left unattended ages ago when Nagisa tackled Rei and challenged him to a wrestling match) and fumbles to find the replay button. The video loops again and ends just as soon. In the background, Nagisa is giggling idiotically and whispering “look, look, Haru-chan is totally into Rin-chan’s videos!” to Makoto. Haruka ignores them and quickly clicks on another of SharkBoiUnleashed’s video, a fairly new one judging from the significantly lesser view counts. The moment the mesmerizing shores of Shirahama Beach show up on screen, Haruka knows that he’s in too deep.

“Heeeeeeeello everyone! I’m Rin, and today we will go on a beach date!” Rin, dressed impeccably in dark red sleeveless shirt and fitting black shorts, waves at the camera and flashes a grin brighter than the summer sun. He stops walking to stand right on the shoreline, letting the little ripples wash over his feet as he spreads his arms out, basking in the ocean's calmness. "Ah, the wind feels great~"

 

 

Haru feels his heart stop for a moment.

Yeap, there’s no way out of this. Not anymore.

 

And just like that, Nanase Haruka is lost in the spiral of eternal darkness that is YouTube.

Chapter Text

No one mentions anything about SharkBoiUnleashed or Haruka’s unexpected interest in his videos after the ‘little viewing session + sleepover’ they had at Makoto’s house. After all, Haruka only stayed to watch a couple more before excusing himself, muttering something along the lines of “watering my plants” and “left mackerel on the table”, thus saving himself from any of Nagisa’s ruthless teasing. He doesn’t grow a garden and never forgets to store his mackerels in the fridge, so it’s a blatant lie, but they didn’t mind. Maybe he was just tired and needed some sleep. He won’t be getting any if he’d stayed, because Nagisa would have pestered him to no end and the twins would’ve forced him to read them bedtime stories and slept clinging onto him like a koala to a tree.

 

Life goes on as usual like nothing has changed.

Or so they thought.

 

"Haru, do we have homework for Maths?" Makoto asks while putting away his stationeries. As far as he remembers, there is none, but it never hurts to ask for confirmation. When he doesn't get an answer, Makoto looks up from his bag to peer at Haruka. The silent boy is staring at a page on his notebook, making no attempts at packing up. Strange, Makoto thinks. Perhaps his question was masked by the hustle and bustles of afterschool. He tries again. "Haru?"

Silence.

"Ummm... Haru?"

No reaction.

Makoto is now genuinely worried, because regardless of how zoned out Haruka sometimes appear to be, he always responds when Makoto calls out his name.

Has Haru gone deaf? Oh my god, it's the water isnt't it! All that swimming has blown his eardrum off ohmygodHaruI'msorryIshouldhavewarnedyou--

"HARUUUU!!" Makoto yells, sweating and overwhelmed with anxiety and guilt as he comes to the conclusion that his best friend is now deaf from swimming too much. Regardless of how absurd the thinking is, at least it proves to be the right action to take because the thunderous noise finally snaps Haruka out of his reverie.

Startled and confused, Haruka turns to frown at Makoto, who is for some reason already close to tears. "Makoto, you said something?"

Makoto breathes in relief. "Thank god you're okay... I asked you if we have homework for Maths…”

"Oh," Haruka replies nonchalantly, returning his gaze to the table. There're some indecipherable scribbles on the paper, along with a few pencil doodles scattered around. Haruka is infamous for his doodling tendencies, having had the teachers catching him red-handed many times before. However, they always let him go unscathed and without scolding because seriously, that guy can draw. His so-called 'doodles' can make Van Gogh cry tears of jealousy and give Da Vinci a run for his money, if they were still alive. His drawings, nevertheless, are usually of water-dwelling species, captivating sceneries and some weird-looking animal hybrids, so when Makoto catches a glimpse of a person's face on the corner of the page, naturally his curiousity is piqued.

Stealthily, Makoto tries to steal a look at the book, but Haruka is faster. He covers the page with his hand and pulls it away. "We don't," he answers.

"I see...” It's clear that Haruka is hiding something. Pushing the twinge of hurt to the back of his mind (because best friends don't keep secrets!), Makoto nudges,  trying his luck. "By the way, Haru, can I see your dra--"

"No."

Makoto sighs, feeling dejected. Slinging his backpack, he patiently waits as Haru begins to slowly sort his things out. The things he does for this boy, really.

"Haru, you look kinda exhausted today," he comments, noticing the sluggish way Haruka moves. "Did you get enough sleep yesterday?"

Haruka freezes upon hearing the question. He recognises this tone too well, having heard it countless times throughout his life. It's the ‘Mamakoto’ voice, a term creatively coined by Nagisa to describe Makoto's intonation whenever he's concerned and fussing about something like a mother-hen. Usually, Haruka doesn't mind Makoto butting in, but this time is different, because no way in hell is he going to let anyone know what exactly he has been losing sleep over.

"I'm fine," he mutters, hastily tucking the books away. He grabs the one with doodles and a piece of it falls off into his bag, thankfully shielded from Makoto's view.

The monochrome sketch of a young boy stares right back at him -midlength hair tied in a messy ponytail, black necklace hanging nicely round his neck, sharp rows of teeth perfectly aligned in a pretty smile...

Haruka feels his breath hitch in his throat. He zips his bag up in haste.

 

That's right. Absolutely no one must know.


 

A long sleepless week and a hundred-over videos later (not including replays), Haruka now knows the melody of the intro song to SharkBoiUnleashed’s videos by heart. He knows that Rin uploads new videos every Tuesday and vlogs about his life every Saturday. He knows that Rin has a younger sister named Gou and a black mongrel called Winnie. That he likes to eat his steaks medium, is very good at English, is afraid of spiders and height, loves to listen to love songs from the 80s (what a sap)... Heck, Haruka knows so much about Rin that it seems as if they’re two childhood buddies growing up in the same town together, which is obviously not the case.

Calling it an addiction is probably putting it too lightly. It’s almost like an obsession now; rushing back home after class to turn the laptop on, clicking on the bookmarked page and waiting anxiously for it to load while twiddling his thumbs like a schoolgirl with a stupid crush. His heart races every time at the thought of having a new video to watch. Of seeing Rin’s face on the screen again.

 

If someone were to tell the past Haruka that one day he’d turn into a creepy fanboy shutting himself up in his room, watching another boy’s YouTube videos a bajillion times and enjoying every second of it, he would have laughed. That’s really saying something about how absurd it is, because Haruka’s laughter is as rare as the sightings of Halley comets every 75 years. Probably rarer.

It’s driving him crazy.

 

The thing is, it isn’t as if Rin’s videos are that good anyway. SharkBoiUnleashed sells itself as a mostly random, spur-of-the-moment kind of channel, the kind that people watch for the person in it and not the quality content. It appears on the Popular in Japan section every other day because the videos just keeps on racking up views, attracting rabid fangirls like Haruka’s classmates with the interesting thumbnails he uses of him making adorable faces. One video -“Rin Watches Winter Sonata”- which Haruka assumes the girls had been watching back then, has around 400 000 views all thanks to his cute crying face that makes even baby pandas feel ugly.

All in all, it’s just the normal so-so, 3 out of 5 stars stuff. But there’s an X-factor in his channel that makes Haruka stay.

 

It’s Water.

 

Amongst the other rubbish videos he uploaded (which Haruka still watched no less than three times each), Rin has a separate playlist called ‘101 Places for a Romantic Date’. He goes to the places himself, filming the sceneries and commenting on the ambience. He also gives cheesy and often ridiculous ideas on how to surprise one’s lover, like scattering rose petals in a treasure hunt trail and arranging candles in a carefully carved bamboo stick. At the end of each installment, he gives a ‘Rin’s Romance Rating’ for the visited place, which pops up on the screen in pink little hearts that hovers in the corner. Nothing too special, just like any other love gurus.

Except that Rin only goes to places where there’s a body of water nearby.

Lakesides, creeks, rivers, seashores, waterfalls; Rin’s idea of a romantic location happens to be anywhere within a few meter radius from water, preferably plenty enough for him to swim in, which he happens to do in like, 70% of his videos. He chooses the quiet, secluded areas (the idea is for it to be romantic, after all) and god, the spots he picks are always beautiful. People seem to really enjoy it judging from the positive remarks flooding the comment box. A few even went on dates at those places, and they all said nothing but wonderful things.

Today is a vlog day. Rin always lets his hair down in his vlogs, both literally and figuratively. On Tuesdays, Rin is a witty, creative and funny boy who takes his viewers around on a virtual trip with a big smile enough to make hearts melt. On Saturdays, though, he’s different. On Saturdays, Rin is a soft, romantic little darling, who casually talks about how his week went, about his baby sister who’s now all grown up and is going to be snatched away from Big Brother, about his childhood dream of finding ‘the one’ and having a costume wedding in Disneyland. He’s open, honest, emotions bare for people to see, and Haruka kind of admires how perfectly comfortable Rin is in sharing his personal thoughts with strangers.

“Hi everyone, whaaat’s up?” Rin greets in English at the camera. He does that occasionally, and Haruka is still a bit amazed at his flawless pronunciations. “In case you haven’t noticed, I have something special with me today… Ta-dah!”

Rin holds up a white banner, ‘SHARKBOIUNLEASHED 200TH VIDEO!’ printed over it in bold crimson letters. “It’s my 200th one already, can you believe it?! Really guys, thank you so much for putting up with my crap all this while. I never thought that anybody would ever want to watch my videos,He continues, smiling fondly, voice already trembling. Oh god, he’s going to cry any time soon, isn’t he?

 

Luckily, he doesn’t. Haruka can’t handle watching him cry, anyway, because it makes him feel… stuff.

“To show how much I love you guys, I am going to hold a giveaway contest. I had this for my 100th too, so you know the drill right? But for those new to my account, here’s how it works. Leave a comment down below telling me what you like the most about my channel, and I’ll pick the best one,” Rin explains.“Excited yet? Wait till you hear the prize. It’s a…” He makes a drum-rolling sound complete with the hand gestures and Haruka perks up.

The suspense is killing him softly.

 

“Trip with me to Aikawa Hot Springs!” Rin finally exclaims, grinning and clapping his hands in glee. He continues to talk more about how amazing the place is, and how he went on a vacation there when he was a child and was mistakenly ushered into the ladies' section because they all thought he was this cute little girl who lost her mother. “I’ll be waiting for your comments. Peace out, people!” Taking an oversized shark plushie that was lying around, Rin pokes the plushie’s nose at the screen while making some garbled squeaky noises before the screen goes black.

 

Haruka’s eyes flicker.

 

Did he hear that right? A chance to meet SharkBoiUnleashed, his YouTube crush obsession idol, face-to-face? On a date at the famous hot springs featured in the secret magazine he hid under the bed, no less?

 

Haruka contemplates for a while. There are sooooo many ways this thing can go wrong. First, there's the fact that Rin has thousands of followers, and therefore, more competition. He might not even notice Haruka in the sea of comments he's sure to get. There's also no way to go around the fact that they're both boys, and although this is not an actual date, it's still kinda quirky. But most importantly, Haruka is not sure he could handle meeting Rin, who for the past week had been this unreachable boy of sunlight and joy and happiness, separated from him miles away by a computer screen.

Haruka is afraid he'd burst.

After much thinking, he makes his resolution. He grabs his light blue cellphone from the shelf, dusts its cover a bit and scrolls through his contacts. It doesn’t take too long, considering how few he had.

After a few rings, a familiar voice speaks up. “Hello? Haruka-senpai?”

“Yeah. It’s me.”

“It’s rare for you to be calling,” Rei says, still sounding like he couldn’t believe that Nanase I-hate-technology Haruka had called him out of nowhere at 7.30 PM. “Do you need something? Or maybe you just want someone to talk to?”

Haruka ignores the last bit. “Listen, Rei. I need your help,” he replies.

“Oh! Of course, I’d be glad to offer help! But it must be something particularly urgent then, for you to actually go through the trouble of calling. I’m quite surprised, to be honest,” Rei chuckles in amusement.

Haruka, however, is not so amused.

“I know how to use the phone, Rei. I just don’t want to.”

As if sensing his senior’s distress, Rei immediately stops laughing and clears his throat. Haruka can practically see the boy adjusting his glasses anxiously even through the phone. “I’m sorry Haruka-senpai, I didn’t mean to mock you or anything…” Suddenly, a loud screech and sounds of people struggling echo from Rei’s side. Then he starts to yell, voice disappearing off the phone as he pulls it away from his ear. “Tch, Nagisa stop—ugh—give my spectacles back! Nagisaaaa!” There are giggles in the distance and more shoutings and scramblings before Rei finally gets back to the call. “Sorry about that.”

“Nagisa is there with you?”

“Yes, we’re in my room. He insisted that we read some of these… stories. That our fans wrote about us.”

Haruka frowns. “You have fans?”

“Contrary to people’s beliefs, yes, Haruka-senpai, we do. Quite a number, actually, ooof—“ Rei lets out a grunt, obviously tackled from behind by none other than Nagisa. The phone is snatched from Rei’s hands, and then: “HI HARU-CHAAAN!!”

There are times when Haruka questions how Rei endures Nagisa’s pranks and silliness, yet still love the brat so much.

“Hi Nagisa, now pass the phone back to Rei.”

“Awwww Haru-chan, you don’t like talking to me?”

Haruka sighs. He’ll listen to Nagisa talk all day if he wants some other time, but now is not it. “I have something to ask him,” he says. There are things he can tell Nagisa, and things he can’t lest the whole world would know.

“Jeez, you’re so cold, Haru-chan!” The blonde pouts and whines. Rei apparently has to wrestle the phone from him before finally getting it back, much to his protests. Haruka can hear the softly whispered “Rei-chan, hey, Rei-chan put it on loudspeaker!”, but whether or not Rei obliges, he doesn’t know. “Haruka-senpai, it’s me. So, how can I help?”

“I want to know,” Haruka starts, pausing to take a breath. It’s now or never. “How do I sign up for a YouTube account?”

 

 

There’s a moment of silence.

 

 

Then, Nagisa’s earsplitting “ARE YOU SERIOUS HARU-CHAAANN??” confirms that yes, Rei indeed has put him on loudspeaker. Great, all of his attempts at keeping this a secret has gone to ashes.

Chapter Text

The signing up process is a terrible, terrible hell.

It might be something as simple as ABC for other people -YouTube did try their best at making it as user-friendly as possible- but clearly it’s not friendly enough for Haruka. As if making his way through the website and finding the right buttons while referring to instructions over the phone wasn’t difficult enough, the registration form pops up and there it is, rows of empty columns staring at him, waiting to be filled in. Haruka sees the first one, and immediately regrets his decision.

He had to come up with a freaking username.

“Haruka-senpai, can you follow? Did you get the right page?” Rei asks, concerned over the lack of response from Haruka, who is already half-dead across the line in front of his laptop.

“It says that I need a username, Rei,” Haruka answers, almost at his wits’ end. Why in the world is this so complicated? It’s just a dumb YouTube account, for god’s sake! “And I can’t think of any.”

As always, when it comes to giving ideas and naming things, Nagisa will magically appear to contribute his two cents, even uninvited. More often than not, the result is disastrous.

“HOW ABOUT ‘RINSECRETADMIRER’, HARU-CHAN?” Nagisa chirps in, shouting into the phone’s receiver despite it already set on loudspeaker, causing Haru to jerk away. “OR ‘WATERSEXUAL’?”

“Nagisa-kun, please stop screaming. A human’s eardrum can only withstand 20kHz of sound, and if you continue with your current volume, Haruka-senpai will lose his hearing within a couple of minutes.”

“Oh shut it, Rei-chan. That wasn’t what you said last night, when you asked me to go louder because you love listening to my—“

“ANYWAY,” Rei, who’s now blushing beetroot from his neck all the way up to his ears, coughs into his hands, desperate to change the topic. Too much information; he sure hopes Haruka-senpai didn’t hear that. “Why not go for something that is not too obvious? ‘rinsecretadmirer’ is definitely out of the question. Just think of something you like, that you don’t mind to be referred to online.”

Taking Rei’s advice into consideration, Haruka starts to list out the things he likes, counting them using his fingers. Mackerel, water, art. Oh, and don’t forget Iwatobi-chan. That makes it four things that he actually likes enough to include in his Internet nickname. Still, he cannot seem to piece them all together, so in desperation and lack of ideas, he types in ‘watersexual’.

Much to his despair, a red ‘sorry, username is taken!’ appears next to the textbox. Haruka is so ready to stab someone right now.

“Nagisa, ‘watersexual’ is taken,” he says, earning a loud screech of horror from Rei.

“W-w-why would you even consider that one, Haruka-senpai?!”

Haruka shrugs, despite no one being there to see his gestures. “It sounded cool when he said it.”

In the end, after a couple more fruitless attempts of finding the perfect username, Haruka keys in ‘mackerelisgood’. The red turns to green, indicating that it’s free to be used. Amidst the relief that courses through him, Haruka is a bit peeved that no one else in this world had thought highly enough of mackerel to actually use it as their pseudonym. What a blasphemy.

He fills in the rest of the form with ease -albeit in reluctance and yet another headache at figuring out a memorable password strong enough to be approved- and at long last, history is written.

 

Nanase I-despise-technology Haruka finally has his first (and possibly only) online social media account.

And it’s all for the sake of winning a stupid giveaway contest.

 

Scrolling down his distressingly empty profile page, Haruka stares at the computer, unblinking. The first step has been taken, but the journey is still a long way to go. “Now what?”


They’re at the swimming club’s practice stretching when Haruka approached Rei to ask about YouTube comments and how they work. He thinks he’s doing the right thing by writing in the textbox beneath the video and clicking on ‘Post’, but he needs to make sure. It took him half the night to figure out how to sign up, another half composing a suitable sentence that could precisely convey all the complicated thoughts he has about Rin’s channel. For once, he’s working hard and putting effort on doing something that is not cooking or swimming, so jeopardising his chance to win is a risk he’s not willing to take, not when such a prize is at stake.

No one knows exactly how Nagisa does it, probably sold his soul to Satan for black magic or something, but as soon as Haruka finished talking, the boy pops up behind Rei like it’s his natural habitat. From nothing.

“One comment is not enough, Haru-chan! You’ve gotta flood his inbox with your love, your passion, show him how badly you want to win!” Nagisa gushes on excitedly. “If you send once, and other people send ten, who do you think will have a higher chance to win?”

“But isn’t that against the rules, or something?”

“Who cares about rules, Rei-chan! Haru-chan must win this shit, or else he’ll never get to see Rin-chan!”

“That’s not playing fair!”

“Everyone cheats once in a while!”

“Wait a minute,” Haruka says, effectively shutting them both up. He narrows his eyes at the bickering pair. “How did you know what I was talking about? I didn’t say anything about Rin’s video, or winning any competition.”

Realizing that they’ve been caught red-handed for being busybodies, Nagisa grin sheepishly. “Oooppss… Hehe, well, we were curious, you know? Of your sudden interest in YouTube. So we went and watched his latest vid, and the moment he mentioned the giveaway contest, BOOM! We know your true reason!”

“It’s all your fault, Nagisa-kun. You were the one who insisted on finding out Haruka-senpai’s intention--“

“Does Makoto know,” Haruka asks, cutting off Rei from initiating yet another pointless argument. Knowing the pair, Makoto probably knows already. Maybe the whole Iwatobi knows about Haruka’s dirty little secret and are laughing at him behind his back.

Nagisa doesn’t answer, opting to shuffle his feet and give an anxious smile, while Rei looks conflicted like a child who broke a toy and had to confront his parents. Or a kid caught with his hands in the cookie jar.

“He knows, doesn’t he.”

There was a nod from the both of them, and then a “we’re sorry?” from Nagisa that doesn’t sound the least bit convincing and apologetic.

 

Makoto knows.

Haruka is never going to live this down.

 

Just when Haruka thinks his day couldn’t get any worse, Makoto appears, hand paddles clutched close to his chest and a megawatt trademark smile playing on his lips. He brightens up even more -if that’s even possible- when he sees the three of them- and proceeds to jog towards the trio, stupid grin still plastered on his face. Makoto looks happy. Too happy, even.

“Sorry I’m late, everyone!” He calls out, pausing to put the paddles on the floor. Haruka holds his breath, hopeful that Makoto will act like the understanding best friend he is and not make a big deal out of this. In fact, he’s hoping that the boy won’t even mention anything about it. Currently, Makoto’s the only string of sanity Haruka had left.

 

But today is just really not his lucky day.

 

“Haru, I heard from Nagisa and Rei that you’re joining Rin’s giveaw—“

Before Makoto can finish his sentence, Haruka is already jumping into the pool, craving nothing more than to be immersed in the stretch of clear water and save himself from the embarrassment of having his friends discover his fanboy inclinations. It’s so humiliating, even more so than that instance at his elementary school’s swim club when he falsely said “I am home” (to be fair, it did feel like home for him).

His face and ears burn, and even under 8 feet of water he can still hear Rin’s cheerful laughter ringing in his head, clear as the chimes of church bells on a wedding day. He closes his eyes, and he sees Rin’s bright smile, the way his crimson eyes crinkle at the edges when his grin grows wide. Great, now he’s suffering from ‘Rin-withdrawal-symptoms’.

Letting the water engulf him in a cool, calming embrace, Haruka reflects on the first time he’d seen that waterfall video a week ago, muses about how it changed his life and made him such a mess and jumble of feelings.

 

What scares him the most is that he doesn’t regret it. Not at all.


“Haru!!” Makoto says the next morning, thrusting his cellphone into Haruka’s unsuspecting hands out of the blue. “Can you login on my phone for a bit? There’s this YouTube video I want to watch and it can only be viewed by registered users.”

Haruka quirks an eyebrow, sharp stare scrutinizing and silently judging. He first glares at his friend, studying his facial expression for any signs of lying, then at the lime green phone in his palm as if it’s going to morph into a Venus flytrap and bite his hands off.

It’s not like Makoto to use his phone in the school for such futile and inane activities. That is more of Nagisa’s thing. Something fishy is going on here.

“Make your own,” he says, pushing the phone back. Makoto refuses it.

“No I don’t have time for that. I’m in a hurry! Please, Haru…” The olive-haired boy is on edge, fidgeting and jittery on the balls of his feet. He sends a fleeting look towards the classroom door, seemingly looking out for someone.

“What video is it? Why do you need to watch it now?” Haruka enquires.

Gulping anxiously, Makoto scratches his cheek and turns his gaze away; a peculiar habit of him whenever he’s unsure about something. Probably himself. Aha.

“I can’t actually tell you… It’s kinda private, and… yeah.”

“You’re planning to use my account details to watch something online without telling me exactly what it is?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

Haruka’s brows furrow, assessing the situation. Then, in what must be the most condescending tone he has ever used in his life, he asks: “Makoto, are you watching porn at school?”

“Maybe… Wait, what?! OF COURSE NOT!” Makoto wails in protest, flailing his arms wildly. “I don’t watch that stuff at school!”

“So you admit that you watch it at home?”

Makoto looks positively petrified now. “T-that’s not what I said! Don’t twist my words, Haruuu!” He shakes Haruka’s shoulder from side to side and pouts, trying to win Haruka over with the adorable façade. Obviously he’s been around Nagisa too much. “Come on, please? I won’t do anything else, I promise.”

Begrudgingly, Haruka relents, flipping the phone open and typing the URL. As soon as he finishes keying in the details, Makoto brightens up and opens his palm in excitement, gesturing for Haruka to return the phone. He sprints out of the classroom without saying a word, leaving the water-loving boy behind, bewildered. At first he thought that Makoto had to pee, which would perfectly explain why he was acting so squirmy and restless before, but then he noticed that Makoto had run towards the direction opposite of the toilets, down the walkway that leads to Year 1 students’ classes.

 

Nanase Haruka is about to learn the first and most important lesson of using the Internet: Never forget to logout from your accounts on any devices that aren’t yours. And he’ll learn it the hard way.


It’s another hectic day in the life of Matsuoka Rin.

Ever since making the breakthrough in the Top 50 Most Subscribed Channels of All Time, Rin has been more or less forced to constantly churn out new videos on a fixed schedule. Getting to this level took him a hell lot of time and effort, and he’s not going to throw it away just because he ran out of ideas or lost the passion. Besides, although it’s not really fame and success that he’s after, Rin treasures his fans as much as he does his friends in the real world.

YouTube is an outlet for him to express himself without getting worried of skeptics or prejudice. So what if he fancies the smell of roses more than the pretty girl next door? So what if he lets his tears fall more often than a heartbroken lover would? Who cares if he watches Disney movies again and again, and still believes in that legend of one true kiss that cures all? On the Internet, no one, that’s who. And that freedom to be whoever he wants to be… that’s what Rin enjoys the most when it comes to maintaining an online persona.

Regardless, he still gets the occasional hate mails from viewers who deem his faith in romance revolting or old-fashioned, who sometimes throw insults and question his popularity. Some even go as far as accusing him of buying likes, which Rin thinks is fucking ridiculous because if there’s any cash flow involved here, it’s him who is on the receiving end, thanks to advertisements.

Still, the sweet, encouraging comments he gets from his fans keep him going. He reads them, every single one of them. At times, they say such amazing things that he can’t help but to feel deeply moved.

Today, his inbox is particularly full.

Rin is scrolling down the comments on his giveaway contest video, looking for the one worthy of winning the grand prize. A bowl of mac & cheese rests on his lap, while his laptop lies on the table, connected to the charger. He takes note of the interesting ones, giggles at the raging hormonal fangirls’ proclamations of undying love for him (there’s one that reads “rin im so thirsty fo u!!1!”), and skims through the rest, pausing once in a while to take a spoonful of his instant dinner.

And then, he sees it.

Rin’s eyes widen and his jaw grows slack.

Rows and rows of comments line up on his screen, flooding the area as far as Rin could scroll, each containing different messages. None of them say the same thing, but they all share a common characteristic.

 

They’re all posted by an icon-less user named ‘mackerelisgood’.

 

The top one -presumably the most recent one coming from the aforementioned user- was posted 4 hours ago. Rin counts how many there are, because while it’s a little bit freaky to be that obsessed and desperate, he’s actually very flattered that someone likes him that much. Thirty-seven. There are thirty-seven comments from mackerelisgood, and every single one denotes what the person likes about Rin’s channel.

The only problem is, those comments are in truth, more of what the person likes about Rin himself rather than his videos. The first one reads:

 

“Your eyes. Are they always that red? Because sometimes they sparkle like rubies. I like watching them.”

 

Rin fights the incoming blush. He tries not to think of it too much, in favour of reading the next one:

 

“I like that thing you do with your eyebrows when you’re questioning something. It’s really cute.”

 

Whoever this mackerelisgood is must be a very observant person, because even Rin doesn’t know what his eyebrows look like on normal circumstances, let alone in such a specific condition. Rin is fairly taken aback by the nice things said about him. If mackerelisgood is real, Rin would’ve fallen for them at the drop of a hat.

It’s as if they’re flirting. And to be honest, Rin is falling for it. Hard.

To his misery (or delight, let’s face it, every compliments hits straight at his heart like a cupid’s arrow), there are thirty-five more comments to go, and Rin is not sure he could survive by the end of this. 

“How did you get your hair to look so silky? I bet they’re as smooth as they look. Such a beautiful shade of maroon, too ;)”

 

“Your muscles are awesome! Such perfectly sculptured deltoids and triceps… I wish I can lay my head and rest on them, hehe”

 

I love your laugh, Rin! Makes my world go round.” 

By the thirtieth comment, Rin wants nothing more than to bury himself in a comforter and wrap it around his body like a spicy burrito in an attempt of hiding the flaming heat that’s now threatening to spread down from his face to his neck. He’s embarrassed, so goddamn embarrassed by the things mackerelisgood wrote, and his heart feels like it’s about to spontaneously combust from the inexplicable happiness. Though he notices that the way the comments differ from each other almost as if they were written by at least three different people (some sound too cheerful, some overly philosophical and flowery, while some really simple and on-point), Rin can’t fight this giddiness that attacks him at the thought of him being someone so special to another.

The thirty-sixth reads:

Your smile. They’re really bright and pretty. I like it.” 

Rin rolls around on his bed, unable to stop the silly grin. He buries his face into a pillow and lets out a muffled scream before making grabby hands for his cellphone. Speed-dialing his friend -who is also his cameraman- Rin waits for the call to connect, all the while rereading the second-last comment over and over again. Gosh, the freaking butterflies are still fluttering about in his stomach.

“Hello, Rin?”

Upon hearing his friend’s voice, Rin sits up and in his state of cloud nine, slams the laptop shut. Then, he hums happily and declares.

“Sou, I think I found the winner.”

 

 

The thirty-seventh comment, posted a day before the other thirty-six, lies unread at the bottom of the screen.

“What I like about your channel: Water.”

Chapter Text

“Are you sure about this, Rin?” Sousuke asks, his downturned eyes squinting at the screen as he reads through the comments that his best friend claims to be ‘the sweetest shit I’ve ever read’. Stopping at one that praises Rin’s supposedly ‘unique and mesmerizing teeth’, Sousuke turns to give him the icky look. “’Cause I don’t know, man. Sounds pretty creepy to me.”

Rin appears offended, grabbing the laptop from the table to cradle it close to his chest like it’s a precious treasure to be protected. It is in a way, because stored in there are hundreds of classic romantic comedies and tear-jerkers that he’d painstakingly downloaded via torrent and collected over the years; Titanic in HD included. “Look, I’ve never had anyone say something like this before, okay?” He retorts. “I have the right to feel flattered!”

At that, Sousuke chuckles fondly, giving Rin’s head a little noogie which earns him a protesting groan. “You could’ve just asked, I would say those things to you day and night if that’s what you wanted.” Then, he adds with a grin. “Not all of them, though, because some really sound like what a middle-aged cyber predator in disguise would say to a 9-year-old girl he targeted on Facebook.”

“Sou, I’m being serious here. I just—“ Rin pauses, struggling to find the right words to make Sousuke understand. It’s hard to describe and justify his ‘crush’ on this individual he’d never even met before, especially to someone so matter-of-fact like Sousuke. “It’s just that, I feel like I should meet this person. Or at least get to know them. Call it instincts, or something.”

The problem in dealing with someone whose belief in romance is as strong and undeterred as Rin is that, every single encounter is considered a potential love interest. Whether it’s the rom-com quality bump-into-someone scene on a random street, a call from a wrong number or a coincidental brush of hands while reaching for the same book in the library, Rin sees them all as his chance. Even one as brief and incredulous as a casual chat online, or in this case, a string of flirtatious comments left on his YouTube account.

It may sound a little too impulsive, but that’s the kind of ideas you get in your head when you’ve spent your last few Valentines alone, watching about every chick flick and romantic movies in existence. Rin has waited, and waited, for the right one to come. And frankly, he’s tired of waiting.

It’s cute sometimes, that innocence of his. Most of the time, though, it gets annoying. Because acting like a blushing, stuttering maiden single-and-desperate-to-mingle can only spell trouble; trouble that Sousuke simply cannot allow to befall on his sworn lifelong bestie.

Taking a deep breath, Sousuke places his hands firmly on Rin’s shoulders, determined to slap some sense into the boy’s mind now hazy and clouded with love hormones. “You are going on a date at the hot springs with this guy, Rin. Or girl, whatever. The point is, you’ll be spending some time alone with some weirdo you met on the Internet, who may or may not be a serial psychotic killer, in a closed space while wearing nothing but a small towel covering your butt and your mini-me. How safe do you think that sounds?”

Rin almost chokes on his saliva at the last bit. Okay, Sousuke has a point there. But Rin isn’t going to back out from this.

“I’m not twelve, Sou… I’ll contact them first. Make sure that it’s a real legit human and all that crap. Jeez, you’re such a worrywart,” Rin clucks his tongue in annoyance and heaves a long suffering sigh. And to think that he called Sousuke to come over and share his excitement. All he gets is a nagging substitute of his mom. Hell, even his mom doesn’t fret this much.

Seeing that his overprotective friend isn’t budging from the topic anytime soon, the redhead begins to re-open the laptop and fiddles around with it, all the while struggling to ignore Sousuke’s pointed glare. “Alright, I’m checking their profile, see if there’s any info… Ah, there’s a name!” Unable to hide his enthusiasm, Rin bounces in his seat and leans forward, carefully scanning through mackerelisgood’s profile. Sousuke shakes his head in defeat, but still curiously peeks over Rin’s shoulder at the screen. “Nanase… Haruka. See, even the name sounds sweet! I’m sure she’s just a cute, harmless girl.”

“What makes you so sure it’s a girl, though?”

“Ummm, the name, I guess? I mean, it’s pretty girly to me.”

Sousuke’s eyebrows rise at that statement. He stares at Rin skeptically, willing to communicate his thoughts via his droopy teal eyes. Really, Rin? Girly name equals a girl? Really?

“Duuudeee, cut it out already. I’m born with this name, no need to rub the salt in my wound.” Rin punches Sousuke’s arm playfully, although it ends up harder than he intended it to be. He doesn’t bother to apologise, because between them, nothing ever goes unforgiven anyway. Slowly, Rin leans forward, resting his head on top of his outstretched arm on the table, gazing dreamily at the bright screen. A small smile creeps up his face as he recalls the honey-coated comments that managed to set his heart aflutter. “Ah, I wonder what she’ll be like…”

Sousuke scoffs, still staring in amusement as if Rin has magically grown another head. “Since when are you into girls, ‘cause the last time I remembered, your first crush was a—“

“Boy, yes I know. Ugh, shut up, it was a one-time thing okay. I was just awed by his swimming, that’s it.”

“To the point of stalking him and trying to persuade your mom to let you change school? I don’t think that’s considered a ‘one-time thing’, Rin.” Sousuke says. “Thank god your mom refused, or else you could’ve been into ‘fencing swords’ now, if you know what I mean.”

As soon as the double entendre escapes Sousuke’s mouth, Rin groans and covers his ears, face scrunched up in terror at the images running through his head. It’s a given that he knows what it means –a teenager’s curiousity knows no boundaries, and Google isn’t exactly known for filtering out unwanted pictures and information. “Ewww, don’t, just don’t. Okay I’m sending mackerelisgood a PM. I’ll tell you when I get a reply. And no thanks for that imagery, man, I’m gonna have nightmares tonight.”

“More like wet dreams,” Sousuke teases, poking Rin in the ribs once before making a beeline to the door.

“Piss off, Sou!!”


It’s Tuesday, and Haruka is back at home early again.

 Rin doesn’t specify the time when he’ll announce the lucky winner, but Haruka cannot chase away the jumpiness and anxiety. Even if he doesn’t win, he still feels satisfied knowing that Rin had at least scrolled down past his comment floating about. That at least, even though they’re as far apart as one can imagine with close to zero chances of meeting face-to-face, Rin knows that he exists.

 

Today, Haruka gets more than what he bargained for.

 

When he gets notified that he’s received a PM, Haruka freezes.

He hasn’t uploaded any videos on his channel, and he’s not planning to do so in the near future. The only videos he ever watch are those of SharkBoiUnleashed. Apart from that, he has zero interactions with any other YouTubers (he tried watching some other videos, but it seems that they’re always either cats and dogs acting cute, people playing online games and freaking out, or boobs, and unsurprisingly, he has no interest in any of them) so it makes no sense whatsoever that someone would be interested in his account enough to actually leave a PM, whatever that acronym means.

At first, Haruka think it’s better to ignore it; after all, Rei and Nagisa did warn him about spam (what has canned meat got to do with the Internet, he doesn’t quite follow). But then, there’s that tiny voice in his head that maybe this is important.

 

And he’s right. It was a life-changer.

He reads the message again and again, eyes scanning through each and every word, trying to comprehend what just happened. SharkBoiUnleashed has just talked to him. Rin has just talked to him. Rin –the rising star of YouTube, the boy whose videos Haruka had spent his whole week putting on repeat, the single person whom Haruka wants to meet but thought will never get to- has just sent him a freaking message.

Haru loses the last remains of his ability to breathe.

It feels surreal, like a pleasant dream Haruka has while napping in the bathtub every morning that he knows he’ll wake up from with a jerk whenever Makoto barges unannounced. This whole thing seemed impossible until just a second ago. Is this really happening? How?

And comments? Is that a plural he’s seeing?

With so many questions unanswered and so many feelings unnamed, Haruka lies in bed, clutching a pillow close to his chest, as if it can somehow help stuff back his heart that’s now threatening to drop out. There’s a weird twinge in his chest and uncomfortable turning of his stomach, the kind that people get before going up the stage, and his feet and hands feels cold and warm at the same time. He’s heard of these before from friends who had went to a concert or a fan-meeting event with their favourite artists. Maybe it’s a similar feeling. Maybe it’s something different, something… deeper. Who knows.

He wants to watch Rin’s new video, he really does -it’s another episode of 101 Places for a Romantic Dates after all, and that means more water- but he simply can’t bring himself to see Rin’s face right now. Not when he knows that within a few days’ time, he’s going to see that exact flawless face, head-on. Touchable. Caressable. Kissable.

To top it all, they’re going to visit the same hot springs that has been haunting Haruka ever since he read a review article about it in that secret magazine.

Staring at the ceiling with an unfocused gaze, Haruka swallows the lump forming in his throat. Oh my god, he thinks. I’m going to meet Rin.

 

The whole night, he doesn’t go to sleep.


Haruka shows up at school looking like a starving zombie, much worse than he’s ever been before, and this time everyone notices.

When Nagisa and Rei drop by his class during recess, they instantly point out the deep dark circles Haruka is sporting. “Haruka-senpai, your expression is akin to that of a goldfish that has fallen out of its aquarium. Which, I think is rather accurate considering that there are instances that made me question your true species…“ Rei rambles on. “Ah, anyway! Are you fine?”

Haruka gives a tired nod, too worn out to give a glare; it’s the fifteenth time someone asked him this today (thirteen times were by Makoto). “I got a PM on YouTube. What’s a PM, by the way?”

“Private message, Haru-chan, duhhh!” Nagisa replies, giving his strawberry cone another lick before wolfing it down in one go like a paper shredder, munching noisily on the biscuit. He simply needs to hear about this. “Who is it from?” He asks.

For a while, Haruka contemplates whether he should share the big news. The outcome of this can only be either a shrieking apocalypse breaking out or Nagisa running around naked in the school compound from overexcitement. There is no in between.

Haruka glances at Makoto who’s looking just as eager and curious as the other two, and that’s when he decides for the hell of it.

“…. SharkBoiUnleashed,” he answers.

“YOU GOT A MESSAGE FROM RIN??!” The trio shouted in unison, Nagisa’s voice being the loudest. They crowd around Haruka, eyes wide and jaws hung open with disbelief. Luckily the class is void of people, or else the crowd would’ve been much bigger. Surely his female classmates would not hesitate in murdering him as brutally as possible for stealing their idol away.

“Yeah,” Haruka answers nonchalantly, seemingly unfazed even though he himself has lost his shit yesterday. ‘No one must know’ can be his life motto now. “He said I won the contest. And that the comments were nice.”

Nagisa, however, is unable to calm down anymore. “OH MY GOD. OH MY GODDD!!!” He shrieks, shaking his boyfriend’s shoulders vigorously to the point of making Rei’s red glasses drop off on one side. It’s a wonder his head is still intact. “Rei-chan, can you believe it?! Holy crap! We did it!”

Looking at his friends’ reactions (it’s good that it resulted in a shrieking apocalypse because he’s unsure Iwatobi High can handle a naked kid on the loose in midday), Haruka decides that it’s high time to get his questions answered. “I remembered leaving one comment. When I checked, there were thirty-seven of them. How come? I don’t understand. Do they multiply on their own?”

“You see, Haru-chan, when two YouTubers really love each other, the baby comments co—“

“Nagisa, don’t lie to Haru like that!” Makoto scolds, petrified at the thought of Haruka believing Nagisa’s nonsensical explanations. The guilt of lying to his best friend has been eating him from the inside for the past week, and now he’s adamant that Haruka should know the truth. He can only hope that Haruka is too high up on cloud nine to get angry. “Haru, remember when I said I wanted to watch that private video?” He prompts.

“You mean the porn you used my account to watch with,” Haruka states, giving Makoto that judging, apprehensive stink eye again.

“It wasn’t porn! In fact, I didn’t watch anything! I just went to Rei and Nagisa’s class straightaway, and we kinda… helped you, a little.”

Colour drains from Rei’s face as he pictures his most admired senior getting mad at him for hacking into his account. He can’t let that happen! Who’s going to teach him freestyle if not Haruka-senpai? “M-makoto-senpai, don’t spill our secret!” he whines. But Makoto forges on, wanting to get the guilt off his chest.

“Halfway through, our hands got tired from typing too much, so Nagisa got a few of his friends to help… Some of the girls were eager, so yeah… We all just wanted to see you win, Haru.” Makoto finishes, glancing at Haruka to gauge his reaction. After what seems to be a perpetual, awkward silence, Haruka speaks.

“Thanks, I guess.”

Everyone sighs in relief. Haruka is not angry. That’s great. But there’s no doubt he’ll be furious if they tell him that his account is still logged in on Makoto’s phone which means they have free access to it at all times. As soon as Nagisa sees Makoto opening his mouth to blurt that out, he quickly changes the topic.

“So, when’s the big day?”

“We haven’t fixed the date yet. Rin says he wants to get to know me better first.”

 Nagisa sees a ray of hope. He’s really getting into this whole matchmaking thing. Heck, he’s so good at this he’s already considering setting up an online dating service in the future. Haruka is hitting the jackpot if he gets it on with Rin, and he’ll be the perfect testimony for Nagisa’s efficiency. Clasping Haruka’s hands in his, Nagisa looks up at his friend, bright magenta eyes glinting in fervor and mischief. “OH WE CAN TOTALLY HELP IF YOU NEED US TO—“

No thanks," Haruka quickly says, standing up to get his meal. Halfway across the class, he turns to Makoto, and there's an exchange of gazes before Haruka adds. "It's okay, Makoto. Just log-out from my account, now."

Sometimes Nagisa loathes the freaky telepathic connection those two share.


Although he was hopeful at first, it turns out there’s really not much that Rin can learn about mackerelisgood from the messages they exchanged for the past few days. Haruka hardly writes back anything longer than 5 words, and the answers are always to the point with not much details unless specifically asked. For example:

Rin reasons that maybe she’s just shy. All in all, he now knows that Haruka loves water, art and mackerel (surprise, surprise), and that she’s a single child living alone in her family house. Other than that, Nanase Haruka is a complete mystery.

The whole mysterious admirer thing is so fucking cheesy, it makes Rin’s heart race like the romantic loser he is.

Perhaps the most crucial fact that he managed to obtain from their conversation is that she (Rin is still convinced that it’s a she, regardless of what Sousuke says) goes to Iwatobi High, the same school as Rin’s younger sister, Gou. So they do have a hidden link, after all. But asking Gou to go on a stalker mode on Nanase Haruka is out of the question, because that will just ruin the surprise factor of their meeting. Besides, once Gou finds out about this, she’ll definitely be nosing around and embarrassing him at every chance.

After Rin deems that they’ve graduated from being ‘strangers’, they finally set the date on the next weekend -seeing that it’s the most convenient- and agrees to meet up at Iwatobi station before riding the train to Shin’onsen-cho, where Aikawa Hot Springs is located. To make meeting-up easier, Haruka provides her number, a very brief description of her appearance and a simple


Today is the day.

Rin arrives at the station 15 minutes earlier, dressed in his coolest-looking shirt and the best style he can possibly set his hair in. He was torn between letting the locks down or tying them up, but considering that one of Haruka’s comments did praise his hair’s silkiness and Rin is currently dressing to impress, he decided that the natural look is the better choice.

With a bouquet of red carnation –which says ‘my heart aches for you’ & ‘admiration’ in flower language, nope, he did not just looked it up- hidden in one hand and a small duffel bag hanging on his shoulder, Rin waits patiently for his date to arrive.

Twenty minutes later, Rin is beginning to worry that he might’ve been stood up.

Thirty minutes later, Rin gets up from the bench and starts asking around.

Rin looks around and spots a boy standing with his back towards him, facing the escalators. Logically, he’d have seen Haruka if she happens to pass by, so Rin approaches him and gives a little tap. “Hi, excuse me. Have you seen a girl around? Black hair, blue eyes, blue dress… Kinda cute face I think--”

The boy turns around, and gasps.

“Rin,” he breathes.

“Oh, umm. Yeah it’s me. Do we… know each other?” Rin asks, puzzled. He frowns when the boy doesn’t reply, clear blue eyes still staring at him with that strange expression. He looks almost… stunned, like he’s just seen a hot babe and is frozen on the spot, breath taken away.

Strange kid, Rin thinks. But he seems familiar…

And that’s when it hits him, harder than a piece of four pounds brick to the forehead.

 

Black hair. Blue eyes. Blue T-shirt.

 

Of course, he said “I’ll be wearing blue”, not exactly specifying what type of clothes. It was Rin who jumped to conclusions. It was him who assumed.

You know what people say. Never assume, you’ll make an ass out of u and me.

 

Eyeing the quiet boy in front of him from head to toe, whose eyes -though a beautiful shade of blue- are like two hollow depths of trapped ocean staring into Rin’s soul, Rin still has that tiny ray of hope that he might’ve gotten the wrong person. That this boy is probably just another random guy who happens to watch his channel, and coincidentally shares the same characteristics as mackerelisgood.

“Nanase Haruka?” Rin asks, quirking his eyebrow questioningly. Okay, now he’s aware that he does that eyebrow thing a lot.

The boy nods once.

“Oh, wow,” Rin mutters under his breath, running his shaky hands through his perfectly combed and styled hair. Strands of silky maroon tresses slip out in a mess, but Rin can’t be bothered to tuck it back in. Even the red carnation he’s holding is beginning to wilt from the immense amount of awkwardness. “This is. Umm… unexpected.”

Haruka continues to stare, and then with a swift motion, he reaches forward to softly tuck Rin’s hair behind his ears, not giving a damn that they’re two high school boys in the middle of the day at a fairly busy train station. “Some fell out,” he says bluntly, staying true to the talk-less nature of mackerelisgood that Rin knows of. Rin fights the crimson blush that spreads over his face like wildfire, wishing that there’s a dark cave somewhere nearby that he can hide and curl up in.

 

Well, shit.

 

Rin just hates it when Sousuke is right.

Chapter Text

The train ride to Shin’onsen is awkward as hell.

Rin has heard of people describing situations like this, when two people are within vicinity of each other but not a single word is spoken. They describe the atmosphere as ‘so thick you can cut it with a knife’, though in his opinion, that’s nothing compared to this heavy, borderline painful silence hanging in the air. A week ago, in Rin’s mind, Nanase Haruka was a sweet, shy girl (that will remain the single most embarrassing misconception he had ever done in his life) who loyally watches his YouTube videos on daily basis and is simply the most romantic person ever. Now, in the harsh reality, Nanase Haruka is this boy sitting next to him on a nearly empty train, equipped with zero communication skills and a perpetual blank expression on his not-bad face and damn it, is there really a need to sit that awfully close?!

Haruka doesn’t seem to mind the lack of space between them, though, still wearing that undecipherable look and keeping quiet like there’s gold in his mouth.

The crimson carnation bouquet from before lies wilting in his hand. Rin stares at it, not knowing what to do with the living proof of his idiocy. Should he give it to Haruka? A boy giving a bunch of flowers that spells out ‘admiration’ to another boy he has only met a moment ago just screams homoromantic. But there’s hardly anyone in their coach, and it’s not like he can keep it anyway. It’s a shame if such beautiful flowers go to waste.

Sousuke’s words come to his mind, and Rin sighs. He just hopes the guy isn’t allergic to pollens, or something.

“Hey, umm. I got this for you, actually,” Rin says, fidgeting in his seat and turning to face Haruka. The instance Haruka looks up, Rin thrusts the flowers into his face in one swift motion. “Y-you can have it, if you want.”

Haruka looks genuinely taken aback for a brief moment, before his expression morphs into a mixture of shock and delight. He takes the offered bouquet gently and brings it close to his nose to give it a sniff, closing his eyes for a second. When he reopens them, they’re gleaming a brilliant shade of blue. “They’re red like your eyes, Rin,” he says. “I like it.” There’s a faint hint of a smile playing on Haruka’s lips. Rin swears that he can see freaking rainbows and shit in the background.

Screw this.

Protagonist giving flowers to his love interest? Check. Love interest sniffing the flowers and smiling shyly? Check. Sitting side by side with knees brushing lightly? Check. Going on a first date? Half check.

It’s like a scene straight from the cheesiest romance movies he can ever find. It’s a dream come true, and Rin is lying if he says that he doesn’t fucking love it.

Rin is torn between shuffling closer to Haruka and snuggling up to him or getting as far away as possible, preferably jumping off the train onto the railway while he’s at it. He settles for a curt nod instead, and plugs in his music player, turning it up so he can drown out the distracting ringing heartbeats in his ears.

Sensing that no further conversation is going to take place, Haruka wordlessly goes back to whatever he was doing before –which was staring silently at the sceneries rushing by - only this time with a bouquet of red carnations (wait, how the hell did the flowers become fresh again?) resting nicely on top of his lap.

The train continues to roll down the San’in line, and throughout the journey, Rin sneaks a glance at him once. Twice. On the third, their eyes meet.

 

Rin feels his heart stop. He quickly shifts his gaze towards something else, pretending to appear unaffected.

The furious blush on his cheeks gives him away.


Aikawa Hot Springs is a 10-minutes’ walk away from Hamasaka Station, located a fair distance from the hustles and bustles of the busier parts of Shin’onsen. Regarded as one of the best onsen in the area (and Shin’onsen, as the name indicates, has many, many onsen to choose from), the place is constantly lively and filled with visitors. Matsuoka is a household name here, being one of their long-time customers. Haruka watches in amazement as the workers all greet Rin cheerfully, bowing in utmost respect and welcome when they pass by.

Since this is meant to be a date of some sort, Rin has made several special requests for his reservation in his enthusiasm to make it as romantic as possible. Apart from booking the best room that boasts beautiful décor and fantastic view from the balcony, he’s also ordered the most delicious meals prepared by his favourite chef, even specifically asking for the freshest mackerel they can get. Nothing but the finest for Miss Nanase, as Rin recalls telling the manager.

 

Mister Nanase it is, now.

 

Rin admits, he may have bragged over the phone to them a little about his date, and some of the female staffs were more than eager to help make it the best date ever. Here’s the little boy they’ve doted on for the past few years whenever his family comes on a vacation, and now that he is a handsome young man old enough to bring his own sweetheart, it’s understandable that they would want to be involved. Strangely though, when he struts in with a guy instead, all of them started grinning creepily, some even giggling among themselves without bothering to hide their glee, much to Rin’s dismay.

Sometimes Rin wonders how many people out there thinks he swings that way. Is it the mid-length hair? Or maybe it’s the ankle bracelet… shit, he might have to stop wearing that.

They provide him with the largest room in the far end of the hallway, isolated from the rest of the visitors. As he takes the keys, Rin battles the hue of scarlet that’s spreading over his cheeks at the realization that yes, they have just given him the freaking honeymoon suite

“I’ve been wondering for a while, Haru… I don’t see you bringing any bags. Do you have spares to change into? I mean, after the hot bath, of course,” Rin asks as they’re settling down in the tatami-mat room, curiousity getting the better of him. The room-maid has just left after making sure that everything is in place, leaving behind the customary tea and confections for them to enjoy.

“I brought swimsuits,” Haruka replies plainly, gesturing towards his black backpack that lies flat on the floor next to the sliding door. The bag is small, small enough that at least three of it can easily fit into Rin’s much larger duffel bag. Rin waits for him to continue explaining, but he doesn’t. It’s as if he honestly is of opinion that hogging your swimsuits along wherever you go is the most natural thing on Earth.

“Ooookaaay… But we’re not swimming, so why would you bring those?”

“For the bath. I bathe with my swimsuits on.”

Rin blinks. “You’re kidding, right?”

At this point, Rin knows better than to expect to see Haruka burst out laughing; it’s basically impossible. Rin has tried making lame jokes on the train, just to lighten up the mood a bit, but it resulted in a few humiliating moments that made him want to smash his face onto the ground in hopes that the pain could wash the shame away. The guy’s emotion is extremely difficult to evoke, and true enough, Haruka’s only answer is an unamused glare.

“Oh my god, you’re not kidding,” Rin mutters under his breath. An image of scowling Haruka sitting in the hot bath with a swimsuit covering his nether regions pops up in his head, and Rin has to cough out loud to fight the incoming chuckles. “Uhhhh, okay, cool. What about other clothings? Shirt, pants, underwear…?”

Haruka looks up from the tea he’s pouring. “I have one set.”

At least he still has common sense. Rin isn’t too sure he can tolerate a half-naked Haruka walking around the room wearing only a scanty swimsuit. Worse still, he doesn’t even know if it’s the proper thigh-and-calves-covering one or just a piece of triangle concealing what matters most (his junk obviously).

If Haruka pulls out a freaking speedo from his bag later, Rin will probably faint on the spot.

Just as his naughty mind starts to conjure some rather interesting pictures, he finds a hand waved in front of his face. Apparently, he’s been staring into space for a while now, seeing as Haruka is already sitting cross-legged across the table, two cups of piping hot green tea and a plate of steaming manju in front of them. The sweet smell of red bean-jam slowly fills the air. Noticing that Rin’s attention is on him, Haruka reaches into his bag and rummages around to take out one small container with an attached spoon.

“Pudding,” Haruka says before Rin can ask. “You want some?”

Rin shakes his head, offering a polite smile instead. “No thanks, I don’t like sweet stuff.”

In a split second, Haruka’s face turns gloomy. He looks crestfallen, like he’s disappointed in himself. “Oh. My bad. I forgot about that,” he says.

“Yeah it’s fine… Wait, forgot? What do you mean, ‘forgot’, how would you know in the first place?”

“Your videos,” Haruka answers, nonchalantly taking one spoonful of the caramel goodness and popping it in. “You talked about it once, in one of your vlogs.”

“You remembered? Why would you remember such things…”

“Of course I do. I’ve watched all of your videos a couple of times.“

As soon as Haruka realizes the things he’s accidentally said, he casts his eyes downwards, face turning a lovely shade of pink. He has just admitted that he’s fanboy. A sick, stalkerish, obsessed fanboy. And to the person he’s obsessing about, no less. The reaction causes Rin to blush as well, his thoughts going back to the comments Haruka has left about him and how this whole thing is making him feel oh so special.

“T-thank you… You know, for the support, and everything,” Rin croaks out.

 

Haruka goes back to eating. Rin goes back to staring.

 

Awkward silence.

 

Rin peeks at Haruka who is still busy shoveling the food down his throat. For someone who claims he eats mackerel, and only mackerel, he’s eating quite an amount, from what Rin has observed. It must be pretty good. “How is it?” He asks shyly.

“What?”

“The pudding. How does it taste like?”

Haruka shrugs, just a barely noticeable movement of his shoulders. “Like pudding. Sweet. You’ve never tasted one before?”

“I think I did, back in the elementary school. But I stopped eating sugary food once I got into the swim team… You know, keeping fit and all that.”

Upon hearing the word ‘swim’, Haruka’s eyes sparkle, having a different glint to it. He looks almost… excited. Which is an emotion he’s rarely associated with. He goes silent for a while before scooping up a bit of the pudding and, to Rin’s utter surprise, holds it out in front of Rin’s mouth.

“Wanna try?” He offers, cool as a cucumber. Rin, on the other hand, is this close to spontaneously combusting and exploding into thousands of little pieces, because Nanase freaking Haruka is offering to spoon-feed him for god’s sake, and surely that will count as an indirect kiss, right?

Bracing himself for the heart-attack that’s sure to come after, Rin leans over the table and chomps down on the spoon. The pudding’s texture feels foreign on his tongue –soft, fluffy and kinda melts-in-your-mouth- but the taste is like a burst of flavours, a wide range of sweetness that leaves a pleasant feeling. To put it simply, it tastes like paradise.

“Ugh, it’s too sweet!” Rin comments, licking his lips to rid of any caramel leftovers. “But it’s really good. Where’d you get this?”

“Makoto gave it to me.”

“Well, you have to send my love to this Makoto girl because this is one amazing food.”

“Makoto’s a boy.”

Rin stiffens. ”Ohh. Sorry.” Wrong assumption, again. He definitely should just shut up now.

“Want some more?” Haruka asks, hand already poised in front of Rin with yet another spoonful of the heavenly dessert, and really, how can Rin say no to that?

 

Spoon-feeding each other like a helplessly lovestruck couple? Check.


It’s all sunshine and rainbows so far, but the dilemma comes when it’s time for the main event of the day: the hot bath.

Since he thought that Haruka is a girl, the private open-air ofuro was never meant to be used. It’s just the perks of being a loyal customer; always getting the best services, and sometimes extra even when not requested. The initial plan is for them to go into the gender-segregated public baths, have delicious meals together, maybe go for sightseeing a bit (while wearing their yukata, how romantic is that!), and then return to Iwatobi hopefully before the last train departs.

“Public bath, or private?” Rin asks. A part of him wishes that Haruka would choose the public one, then they can enter it together without having to feel awkward or self-conscious.

“Private,” Haruka decides without hesitation.

“You’re a shy one, huh?” Rin ribs, grinning teethily and giving a little playful shove to Haruka’s side. Haruka doesn’t seem perturbed by the teasing, though. Damn, the guy really needs to get that stick out of his ass and learn to loosen up a bit. “Well then, Haru, I present to you… Aikawa Hot Springs!”

Rin’s hand barely manages to slide the transparent door leading to the bath open when a dark shadow flashes pass him at the speed of a ninja assassin, jumping into the pool of warm water without delay. Some of the hot water splashes onto his T-shirt and pants, soaking through it and making it cling onto his skin. Rin hisses.

What the hell was that?

Wincing at the slight burn, Rin realizes that the lighting-quick silhouette was indeed Haruka, who has just stripped down within a matter of seconds and is now happily lounging in the wide rectangular onsen tub. At first, Rin avoids looking at him, dreading that he’s probably butt-naked in there, but once the fog clears up, Rin can see the outline of his dark swimsuit.

 

Thank god.

 

“You were wearing your swimsuit the whole time?!”

Haruka answers with a nod, half of his face buried underneath the surface of the water. Bubbles arise and pop alternatingly, and he closes his eyes in bliss. Seeing the scene that fits just like his imagination earlier (and again, thank god for no speedos), Rin can’t resist letting out an amused laughter.

“Is this how you always act around water?”

Haruka slowly emerges from the water to reply, albeit reluctantly. “Yes. Water calls for me, and I answer. It’s that simple.”

“You’re quite the funny guy, aren’t you Haru?” Rin says, spending a few final seconds staring at Haruka’s figure (okay, so perhaps that’s a little gay, but what else is there to do when an attractive half-naked boy is bathing in front of you?) before grabbing a towel from the rack and heading towards the door. “I’ll be going, then. Enjoy your bath.”

“Wait, Rin. Where are you going?”

“Umm, the rotenburo. Why?”

“You’re not bathing here?”

Rin is affirmative that he must be doing the eyebrow thing now. Bathing here, in the same tub as him? Is Haruka crazy, or does he not grasp the sense of privacy? Besides, Rin has a hunch that some other problems might arise if he stays around any longer. “Well, since you’re using it, I can’t be intruding on you… It’s fine, really. The public one is cozy too,” he reasons.

“You can stay. There’s enough space for both of us.” To prove his point, Haruka scoots over to the edge of the tub, bringing his knees close to his chest. He rests his head on top of them and gives a bashful, once-over glance at Rin before looking away, mumbling a faint “we can… talk. For a bit.”

Rin’s resolution instantly crumble into tiny fragments and he caves in to his inner demons that are begging for him to stay. “Alright, if you insist.”


Predictably, they barely talk much anyway throughout the brief hours spent together in the hot bath. It’s not that Rin doesn’t want to, he knows that if he asks the right questions, they can start a decent conversation, but he just doesn’t have the heart to disturb Haruka who seems to be entirely entranced by the comfort and contentment the bath provides. Rin watches fondly as Haruka nearly dozes off a couple of times, too captivated by the relaxing ambience.

They exit the bath afterwards and change into the inn’s yukata -a midnight blue for Haruka and a dark grey for Rin. The rest of the day goes by in a flash. Food is wonderful and worth every yen; Haruka isn’t kidding when he says he loves mackerel, gobbling up the mackerel fillets like a lost traveler who hasn’t eaten for days while Rin looks on in incredulity.

They have a few hours left, so Rin shows him around the small town, all the while recording the places they stop at on his video camera. Rin fights the urge to squeal whenever their hands brush in the crowd, or when Haruka grabs onto his pinky lightly just so he doesn’t get lost. As the sun is setting, they take a casual stroll in the park nearby and pass by a huge cherry blossom tree, which unfortunately isn’t blooming.

“It’s beautiful,” Haruka breathes, voice a soft whisper. He places his hands on the trunk, caressing the rough bark in awe. “I feel like drawing it.”

Rin stares at him, astounded. “Wait, you draw?”

Haruka replies with a shrug. “Told you I like art.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t tell me you do art. I thought you meant the ‘admire paintings in the gallery’ kind of like.”

“Hmm,” Haruka looks up, staring longingly at the naked branches of the tree. “I wonder how it looks like when in full bloom.”

 

Rin almost makes a promise that they’ll come here again in spring, but he doesn’t want to make a promise he’s not sure he can keep.


 They return to the inn just before it gets dark. When it’s time to check out, the rain is heavily pouring outside, drops pitter-pattering loudly on the rooftop. 

 

“What?” Haruka is waiting patiently at the main entrance when he hears the shriek coming from Rin. “What do you mean, the train is not working?!”

The receptionist struggles to calm Rin down, who is currently having some sort of a nervous breakdown, hands gripping at the counter’s edge to the point of his knuckles turning white. They’re supposed to check out and return the keys, but it seems that some problem has cropped up. Concerned, Haruka approaches them stealthily, wanting to find out what all the fuss is about.

“It is just as I have said, Matsuoka-sama… The train service is currently halted after they found a suspicious package in one of the San’in Main Line trips. The only information the police has disclosed is that the suspects who left it there are two high school students, one blonde and the other blue-haired,” she explains, and Haruka perks up at the descriptions, which so happen to be eerily similar to the two boys he knows too well… Coincidence? He thinks not. Haruka makes a mental note to have a word or two with them when he returns. “We are sorry about this, too. But the rain is not letting up anytime soon, so for your safety, I would advise you to spend the night here.”

Hearing that, Haruka senses something stir inside him. Today has been perfect. Rin is exactly like everything he’s imagined every time he watches his videos –charming, lively, and freaking adorable, especially when he thinks no one is looking. There are times when Rin gets on his nerves though, like his persistence in getting Haruka to eat the vegetable side-dishes (they still taste horrible regardless of the cooking), but Haruka truly enjoys the short time they spent together. So much so that when Rin told him that it’s time to leave, he felt a strange pang in his chest.

Once they’ve gone back, they’ll go separate ways. They will regress to just being a famous YouTuber and his faithful subscriber, nothing more, nothing less.

Haruka will still go home early on Tuesdays and click on SharkBoiUnleashed’s latest upload. He will still watch it more than once, run his fingers carefully over the screen, tracing the outline of Rin’s face –a habit he doesn’t even notice he has picked up- and struggling to understand the waves of feelings that wash over him each time Rin laughs. And all that he’ll have left is the memory of spending that day at the hot springs with Rin, and the sketches lie hiding in his books.

 

Haruka realizes that he isn’t ready to say goodbye yet.

 

(Haruka remembers what goodbye feels like. When Grandma passed away, he cried. Cried and cried for days, because he’s young and afraid, of the bottomless hollow so suddenly carved onto his heart, of the loneliness and unfathomable void that haunts him. When his parents left for Tokyo, he didn’t cry anymore. He’s bigger then, the loneliness doesn’t affect him as much. But he still hates that feeling. He wants to forget, but he can’t, so he keeps away from getting too attached to people because he knows that one day, everyone will say goodbye. Makoto, Nagisa, Rei… Everyone.

And now, Rin.)

 

Rin clucks his tongue and musses his hair in frustration. Not noticing Haruka who is now standing right behind him, he groans. “Shit, but we need to go back—“

“I don’t mind...” Haruka mutters, catching Rin off guard.

“You what?”

Haruka looks at Rin, gaze unwavering. “I don’t mind, staying the night with you.”

Chapter Text

It’s almost ten when Rin finally relents and agrees to stay, and they return to the room to find two set of futon already neatly laid out side by side on the floor.

Somewhere in Iwatobi, Haruka knows that Makoto must be worried sick, pacing back and forth in front of his house while frantically trying to dial Haruka’s number. Clearly no one is going to pick up the call, because his phone is currently lying in its natural habitat that is the bottom of his shelf, behind the mountain of stacked books and stationeries, left there to collect dust ever since the last time he used it to contact Rei. A cellphone is nothing but an extra weight in his pocket, another technology that Haruka believes he can surely live without.

(That’s what he said about the laptop, too, but things took a 360° turn after Haruka’s ‘Great YouTube Discovery’, and now laptop is in the list of ‘Quite Useful Technologies’ along with rice cooker and griller. Not that he’ll ever admit that in front of anyone.)

Still, he feels bad about it. Makoto doesn’t deserve this much of stress and anxiety burdened upon him, especially after he had reminded Haruka time and again to carry his phone around.

“Hey Rin, can I borrow your phone?”

Rin barely hears Haruka’s question from where he’s changing his clothes in the bathroom, but he shouts back a reply nonetheless. “Sure, it’s in my bag, there’s a little pocket on the right.”

“Thanks,” Haruka scours the bag and pulls out a black cellphone, sighing in relief at the fact that it’s not one of those slide-to-unlock touchscreen ones that come with intricate pattern swipings which Haruka never manages to make sense of. He punches in the numbers he’s come to memorize with little difficulty. The call connects at the first ring. “Makoto? It’s me.”

“Haruuuu! Where have you been?” Makoto starts to wail in his typical mother-hen fashion. “I was so afraid that you’ve lost your way, or that a bad guy has kidnapped you, or you changed into a merman and fled into the sea—“

“Makoto, calm down,” Haruka sighs. Only Makoto would come up with such paranoid thinking. Merman? Hah, he wishes. If he could turn into one he would’ve done so a long time ago. “I’m not coming back tonight, the train stopped.”

“Yes, I heard that from the news, wanted to make sure you’re safe ‘cause I heard someone left a bomb or something on the train… Lots of people were trapped inside, I’m glad you’re not on it, Haru! But you know, Nagisa and Rei just came back. They were kinda breathless when they ran to my house from the station but they wouldn’t talk to me about it,” Makoto suddenly pauses, frowning as he tries to make the connection. Haruka gives him the time to do so, because pointing it out just spoils the fun. After a short while, Makoto gasps in apprehension. “Wait. It’s them, isn’t it.”

Haruka shrugs despite being miles away. “The usual,” he says.

The line goes into noisy statics and sounds of the things clattering around, followed by Makoto yelling out Nagisa and Rei’s names in his signature Mamakoto voice.

“M-Mako-chan, it was just a joke! I never thought they’d really think it’s a—ah, I’m sorry I’m sorry AAAHHH--!!” Nagisa’s shrill call for help resounds from the receiver, and it doesn’t take much effort for Haruka to imagine how the situation must look like. All hell breaking loose, probably. It’s tremendously tough to incur Makoto’s anger… but once he starts, no one survives his wrath, ever.

 

Rest in pieces, Nagisa, Rei.

 

Rin appears just as Haruka hangs up, drying his maroon hair with a towel and dressed in a fresh cotton yukata. When Rin said he wanted to change, Haruka thought that he was going to sleep in loose T-shirt or some kind of tanktop, not a yukata that fits snugly on his frame. It’s not that Rin looks bad in the yukata. The problem is, he looks good. Too good. Perfect, even.

As Rin comes closer, Haruka can vaguely catch a whiff of whatever it is that he uses on his skin. It’s a tad bit too fragrant for his liking, but it’s still Rin’s scent.

Matsuoka Rin, the real thing in flesh and bones, is going to lie next to him tonight. They’re going to spend the next few hours falling asleep to each other’s heart beats and breaths, skin inches away from touching, scents intermingling till they can’t tell when Rin’s start and where Haruka’s end, and that’s some seriously sappy stuff right there but oh god. Just thinking of it is making him teeter on the borders of insanity.

Rin crawls under his futon with just the subtlest dust of pink across his cheeks, looking at everywhere but the other occupant of the room. Haruka can’t blame him; it’s really a strange feeling, being together like this.

“All done for the night?” Rin asks from his side, hand ready to flick the light switch.

Haruka clutches the comforter a little tighter, pulling it up till his chin. “Yeah,” he answers.

“Yeah. Okay. Uhh, goodnight.”

 

The lights go off.

 

 

Haruka is at first convinced that he’s making the right decision by agreeing to spend a night at the inn. It’s the only seemingly logical and acceptable way he can get to spend more time with Rin. Perhaps they can have some pillow talk and open up to each other a bit more during the night, get close and familiar enough that Rin would like to meet up again sometime in the future. A boy can hope. What’s there to lose?

 

His sleep, apparently.

 

“Rin,” Haruka groans, driven up the wall by the incessant rustles coming from the other futon laid next to his that have been going on for the past forty minutes. “Stop tossing and turning.”

The moment his complaint echoes throughout the room, the aggravating noises instantaneously stop.

“Sorry,” Rin’s meek apology comes. He turns around for what Haruka direly wishes to be the last time before gradually falling into a peaceful silence. The low hum of the running water fountain in the room’s little balcony is almost like a lullaby, sending Haruka into the slumber he very much needs.

But not for long.

“Haru, you asleep yet?” Rin asks, voice a clearer whisper now that he’s lying on his back, staring at the ceiling fan that spins round and round in a hypnotical rhythm. Haruka reaches for the extra pillow that lies by his side and uses it to smother his face in hopes of filtering out the unwanted disturbances. He does not want to answer. He will not give a reply. Who in their sane minds would ask a sleeping person if he’s asleep, anyway?

 

More swooshing and swishing. A long, suffering sigh. Some gnawing of teeth.

 

After the twenty-sixth time Rin turns on his side (yes he counted), Haruka has had enough. “I would be, if you could stop moving around like you’re itching somewhere,” he says.

His temporary roommate, however, is blind to the frustration evident in his tone, and instead is more interested to point out “Whoa, that’s like, the longest sentence you’ve ever said!”

It’s a wonder how Rin manages to coax out so many emotions from him in just one day. Amazed, captivated, entranced, excited, even melancholic. And now, freaking irritated beyond belief.

“Go to sleep, Rin,” he grits out.

Said boy simply laughs, albeit sounding awkward and forced. “You see… that’s the problem. Trust me, I really want to, but I can’t. There’s a rather good reason why I planned a day trip and not an overnight stay,” he goes quiet, probably to add an element of suspense that Haruka really has no mood to deal with in his sleep-deprived state right now. “I can’t sleep. Without my pillow,” Rin finally explains.

That’s it? Haruka doesn’t see the problem at all. “You could’ve just brought it along.”

“And let the whole world see? Haruka, it’s the same pillow I’ve been using since I was, what, five maybe. It doesn’t even look like a pillow anymore. I can’t be carrying it around, and it won’t fit in the bag,” Rin huffs. “But it’s comfortable. Smells like home.”

Haruka doesn’t expect to hear that coming from a teenage boy whose mere flash of sculpted abs is enough to make panties drop. Rin’s body-fat percentage is probably non-existent. He’s like a mass of just meat and bones covered in sinewy muscles and glowing skin. But Haruka supposes that even someone as cool as Rin can have a childish side to him, and that makes him all the more cute and endearing.

Noticing the lack of response, Rin turns to see Haruka’s shoulders shaking lightly and his hands covering his mouth. The bastard is laughing at him. “Are you making fun of me?” He’s not pouting, nope.

Haruka coughs into his fist and looks away, putting back on a straight face. He glances at the clock on the table. 1.45 A.M. Damn, he definitely could use some sleep, pronto. “No, I’m just thinking of how to get you to sleep,” he says, pondering for a moment. After some time, he asks. “Is it hard?”

Rin makes a sound akin to a strangled cat choking on milk. Maybe worse.

“W-what is?!” He cries out petrified, eyes open wide like the guy has just suggested that they make-out (which isn’t that bad of an idea, come to think of it). His mind is lost in the gutter with no hopes of coming back up, thanks to that vague question.

“Your pillow. Is it the hard kind, or is it fluffy?”

 

Oh, of course. Of course it’s the pillow. What else can it be?

 

Your little friend down under, a voice that sounds eerily Sousuke supplies at the back of his mind. Rin groans.

“Jeez, warn me before saying something like that… In the middle, I guess. It’s pretty sturdy back then but now it just kinda sinks in when I lay my head on it. Still comfy like hell, though.”

“Hmm.”

The quietness returns, and now Rin is honestly contemplating if their relationship -if it can even be called one- will perpetually be haunted by the Curse of Silence. Maybe this is how it’s going to be, if you have Nanase Haruka on the other end of the scale.

“I can be your pillow for tonight,” Haruka suddenly says, turning over to rest his head on his arm and stare into Rin’s eyes, deep blue orbs earnest and bright even under the dim light.

 

Rin wants to be killed.

He wants to be slaughtered, obliterated. God, just send any one to slit his throat or shoot him in the face right now, before this blue-eyed monster gets to kill him with his unintentional, awkward serenading that never fails to deal a one-hit KO damage. Haruka looked so charming saying that line which even A-class Hollywood actors don’t ever use to pick up women, and here Rin is, falling for it harder than he imagined he could.

He wants to accept, but at the same time he doesn’t, because rooming together is already strange but this? This is getting too fucking weird.

“I seriously doubt your arm makes a good surface to sleep on,” he retorts, tone cracking at the end.

“You’ll never know until you try.”

Okay, Haruka has a point.

Biting the inside of his cheek to counter the distress, Rin slowly inches closer, and closer, until half of his body lies on Haruka’s futon and the other half on his own. There’re a couple inches more that separate him and that heavenly, heavenly space between Haruka’s outstretched arm and his warm, inviting body. With a final push, he crosses over and falls on top of Haruka’s chest, arms and legs tangled in the layers of comforter.

Rin’s head fits right into the crook of Haruka’s neck, and the yukata they’re wearing emit rustlings when the fabric grazes against one another. Haruka breathes in, and Rin’s head rise along with the movement of his chest.

 

They are cuddling. Freaking cuddling.

 

It takes Rin five seconds to let it sink in, and less than a second later to grow red in the face, neck, chest, arms, legs, everywhere, he’s getting warm all over and his skin is tingling from the faintest touch but gosh, it’s just so nice. His beloved pillow is still the best, though.

“I take it back. This is kinda nice,” He lies. It’s not a kinda, it’s a hella. “I can’t believe I’m doing this. We barely know each other. We’re practically strangers. Why am I sleeping next to, no wait, on you?”

“Because you didn’t bring your pillow and you were being pissy about it.”

“Yeah, well. How would I know you’re not going to stab me in my sleep, or something?”

“I won’t,” Haruka replies, squirming a bit to adjust his hand position, causing Rin to lift his head just a little to give space. Rin figures he’s bound to do that a lot throughout the night, lest he gets a dead arm. “You trust me,” Haruka states, sounding almost smug.

Rin doesn’t have a comeback this time. “I do. That’s the scary part, Haru. I think I trust you a little too much.”

 

And his last passing thought before falling asleep was that maybe, that isn’t bad at all.


Thankfully, waking up isn’t as horrific as he thought it would be. Their faces end up terrifyingly close, obviously, but still, nothing that warrants a panicky Freaky Friday-ish morning scene. That can also be attributed to the fact that Haruka is like a dead carrot early in the morning; unresponsive, expressionless and silent (also known as Haruka-default-mode). Checking out of the inn is still a pain, what with the creepy, knowing grins the female workers are throwing at him, but in the end, they make it out alive.

 

Date accomplished. Ten points for Matsuoka.

 

“Makoto is coming to fetch me,” Haruka speaks when they’re in the train, once again sitting in what Rin normally considers encroaching on his personal space. Still, after last night -which undoubtedly is going down in the books as the closest he’s ever been in another person’s proximity- Rin thinks he may have to reassess what personal space boundaries are to him anymore.

“Okay,” he hums, for lack of better reply. The Iwatobi station is fastly approaching, the train slowing down to a stop. They’re getting off the train and heading for the exit when Rin finally brings the topic up again. “You guys must be really close, huh?” He asks. Great, now he sounds like a jealous boyfriend.

“We’re childhood friends,” Haruka tells, trailing behind Rin as they pass through the fare gates. “I can’t remember life without him around. He’s just… there.”

“Hah, same goes for Sousuke and me. Can’t really imagine how my life would’ve been if he wasn’t around. Though I don’t think he’s coming to fetch m--- you know what, never mind. He’s here.”

Standing by the station’s signboard are Sousuke and this other dude, whose height is impressively only a few centimeters shorter, built nearly as buff as Sousuke himself. Rin squints his eyes at the pair. They seem to be engaging in a rather pleasant conversation, and that gives him quite the shock because hardly anyone can talk to Sousuke like that; certainly not some stranger on the streets.

“Makoto!” Haruka calls out casually. The guy talking to Sousuke pauses in the midst of saying something to beam at them, waving happily.

Grabbing onto Haruka’s arm a little bit harder than intended to, Rin pulls him to the side to whisper harshly. “Wait this is Makoto? The one who gave you the pudding?” He casts another not-so-secretive glance at the tall and broad olive-haired man standing next to Sousuke and cringes. “He’s fucking huge! I expected someone, someone smaller! And more docile!”

Haruka ignores Rin’s overreactions and proceeds to drag him along to where the two tall boys await. When he comes to a stop right in front of them (and heck, these people make him feel so vertically challenged), Rin has no choice but to offer an introduction.

“Matsuoka Rin, nice to meet you,” he utters, trying his best to look confident. No, it’s not because Makoto is Haruka’s friend and he has the urge to appear worthy of Haruka’s love. Shut up.

“Tachibana Makoto. Nice to finally meet you, face-to-face at least! I’m a fan of yours as well, Matsuoka-kun,” Makoto gushes, bowing down excitedly and smiling at him with a radiance that rivalled sunshine. Rin feels like he’s transported to a field of freshly blooming sunflowers. He almost tears up.

What an angel. Rin can’t help wanting to protect this precious child from any harm in the world. Now the sweet caramel pudding fits Makoto’s image perfectly.

“Please, just Rin will do. Oh yeah, I see you’ve met Sousuke…?”

Upon reminded of Sousuke’s presence, Makoto’s face immediately flushes a lovely crimson, the tips of his ears turning redder with each passing second. He peeks shyly at Sousuke and averts his gaze just as quick. Rin realizes that prior to their arrival, Sousuke has most likely unleashed some of his embarrassing dirty jokes, or worse, his Googled pick-up lines.

“Ah, yes, well—umm, w-we--“

“Talked quite a bit, didn’t we, Tachibana-kun?” Sousuke cuts in, hand casually reaching out to rest on top of Makoto’s shoulder, squeezing a little. Makoto flinches at the touch, but seems to have melted right away, if the bashful smile on his face is any indication. Sou you lucky smooth asshole, Rin begrudgingly thinks. “So, Rin, this Haru-chan you’ve been harping on the whole week… where’s she?”

 

She? What she… Oh.

 

Rin’s face pales as he recalls how he had so assuredly claimed that Nanase Haruka is a girl. Slowly, he hooks his arm around Sousuke’s neck and turns them around to shield their conversation from the other duo. “Okay, Sou. Here’s the thing: I fucked up. You were right, he’s a boy. You win. I’ll buy you anything, if you promise to not embarrass me in front of them.”

Rin doesn’t have to look to know that Sousuke is wearing a triumphant, shit-eating grin on his face. Or a ‘told you so’ face. Maybe both.

“Anything?”

“Anything.”

“Deal,” Sousuke agrees, before walking back towards the black-haired boy. “I’m Yamazaki Sousuke,” he glares down.

“Nanase Haruka,” Haruka glares back, and when Sousuke’s teal eyes clash with his own electric blue, the tension in the air rises exponentially.

They stare wordlessly at each other, neither backing down from the contest. Sousuke is aware that Haruka is the one who has swept all of Rin’s attention away from him, and frankly, it’s very infuriating. What’s so special about this kid, anyway?

Reading the heavy atmosphere, Makoto chuckles uncomfortably and begins to tug on his friend’s arm. “Uhhh, Haru… I think we better get going now…”

Haruka doesn’t budge at first, but then Sousuke breaks the gaze by stepping aside, letting Rin pass. Seeing the redhead standing in front of him seems to have snap Haruka out of his stupor. He frowns.

 

It’s time.

 

“I guess that’s it, huh,” Rin mutters lowly, the ground suddenly becoming a thousand-fold more interesting than it has ever been before. Look, that’s an ant carrying a piece of biscuit crumb. How cute. Not cute enough to fend away the painful heaviness in his chest, nevertheless.

“Yeah,” Haruka says. Can’t we stay together a little longer? His mind screams. Can we please not say goodbye?

Rin takes a step closer, leans in forward. He hesitates for an instant, then wraps his arms around Haruka, engulfing the boy in a smothering hug. His hands linger a wee bit too long on the small of Haruka’s back for it to be merely a friendly hug, but neither say anything, just feeling the warmth of the embrace, savouring it while it lasts.

Haruka is the first to pull away, mostly because his heartbeat is getting so fast and loud, he’s afraid Rin would hear it. “Take care, Rin,” he whispers.

Don’t go. Don’t leave. “You too,” Rin replies.

One hand raised up in a small wave, Haruka takes a step backwards, still facing Rin and Sousuke, then another, and then finally, he turns to dash towards Makoto who’s gone ahead and now waiting at the exit. The two walk away in their own pace, and when Haruka finally disappears round the corner, Rin heaves a lamenting sigh. Wow, now there’re twigs in his eyes. Sharp, prickly twigs, poking at his eyeballs and making them burn and secrete fluid which he refuses to admit as tears.

 

Falling for a person he barely knew online… How pathetic can he get?

 

“Calling dibs on the green eyed,” Sousuke suddenly says, glazed teal orbs still staring into the space where Haruka and Makoto were last seen, mouth slightly agape.

Rin snorts. Well, at least certainly not more pathetic than this guy.

Chapter Text

The thing about Rin is that, when he’s upset over something, it shows.

And from the way he’s been behaving ever since he returned from the short trip with Haruka –spacing out in the middle of a conversation, staring into undesignated spaces for long periods of times, scowling at anything and everything that moves and baring his sharp incisors at those who get on his nerves- Sousuke knows that it’s up to him to bring things back under control, since at this point everyone else are close to pissing themselves whenever Rin is near.

In actuality, Rin is as dangerous as a toothless baby tiger; he’s all dark gloomy aura on the outside but still gooey melted marshmallow on the inside.

“Brooding doesn’t suit you, Rin,” Sousuke says that evening, perched on the chair in Rin’s room as they work on editing their latest video. ‘They’ is actually more like a ‘he’, considering that Rin is hardly any help in his current distraught state.

Sprawled over the bed like a spineless jellyfish, Rin gives his best friend a once-off glare and returns to angrily scrolling down on his phone. “I am not brooding.”

With a sigh, Sousuke pauses in the midst of mixing the sound effects on his laptop to cross his arms, giving the other boy a patronising look. “Yeah? Well, apparently other people think you are. You look like, and I’m quoting Nitori here, a washed up shark that has swallowed floating plastics and is dying on the shores of Okinawa,” he says, shaking his head. “Can you picture how pathetic you look right now? Poor little guy was scared shitless when he saw you.”

“—‘m not pathetic…”

“You will be soon, if you don’t brighten up and stop regretting every little thing you did. Or didn’t do.” Sousuke stands up to walk over and slump on the bed next to Rin, who makes no effort to shift or give any room. Clearly, he’s irritated by Sousuke’s attempt at lecturing him. Sousuke is used to this, so he nudges over a little, kicks at Rin’s outstretched legs and manages to fit in somehow.

The reason behind Rin’s distress is kind of obvious to Sousuke. It’s Haruka, that annoying kid (who’s friends with Tachibana! That lucky bastard!) whom Rin is harbouring a not-so-subtle crush on. “Just man up and give that mackerel kid your number already,” Sousuke mutters, instantly garnering an explosive reaction from Rin.

“But Sou, what if he doesn’t want to have anything to do with me anymore? What if he’s got a girlfriend? What if he thinks I’m disgusting and starts to hate me?!”

“Letting another dude sleep in your arms isn’t exactly what you would expect a straight guy to do. You two were cuddling, Rin. That’s got to raise some red flags. Or rainbow flags, if you catch my drift,” Sousuke teases, wiggling his eyebrows and ribbing his friend with his elbow, earning him a loud snarl from the miserable Rin. “Sorry. Look, you said he watched your vids a couple of times, right?”

“Yeah… What’s up with that?”

“What’s up with that? What’s up with that, are you stupid, Rin? I don’t even watch my favourite anime more than twice! And I fucking love anime, alright!” Sousuke exclaims. “My point is, he’s gotta be either super into you, or a crazy serial online predator, which in that case I’ll rescue your ass, no worries.”

Taken aback by the remark, Rin frowns, baffled by his friend’s unprompted encouragements. “Why are you being so supportive, Sou? You’re usually fussy as hell whenever it comes to my love life.”

There’s no use in playing it cool, Sousuke figures, since they’re both able to read each other like an open book anyway. “You got me there,” he smiles, teal eyes crinkling in child-like giddiness. “I need Tachibana’s number.”

 

If Rin’s eyes could fall off their sockets, they would have this instance, with how far back he’s rolling them at that statement.

 

“That’s what this is all about, you going after Makoto’s booty? Geez, thanks a lot, Sou,” Rin grunts, trying to shove Sousuke off the bed but failing. Damn, he really should start training his muscles more now.

“Wasn’t kidding when I called dibs on him. What can I do, I'm a Makobooty pirate after all. Arrrr!!” Sousuke lets out a small chuckle and gets up on his own accord, stretching a little, satisfied at the popping sounds that follow. Walking back towards the laptop, he resumes his task, eyes fixated on the brightly glowing screen. “You know Rin, unlike you, I chase after what I want, and I’m not ashamed to admit it," he says, turning to smirk at his friend. "Now snap out of it, sharkboy, we have a video to finish before Tuesday.”


It’s a totally different situation in Haruka’s case.

Haruka, when plagued with heavy lingering thoughts in his head, becomes even emptier than he usually is. Eerily quiet and detached, he’s far more unreadable than before, shimmying his way out of any conversations with a distant ‘hmm’ that can only be regarded as rude by those who don’t know him. Luckily, Makoto, Nagisa and Rei have been around him enough to not get offended. It’s simply the way he expresses -or rather not express- himself.

 

Rei in particular, is sharp enough to crack the code.

 

Rei rubs his chin wistfully as he observes Haruka staring at a spot on a nearby tree. The black-haired boy is gazing intently at a pair of birds –clearly lovebirds, from their high-pitched cries and the way they snuggle into each other like their lives depend on it- and when the male bird starts grooming its mate with those tender loving pecks, Haruka looks away, frowning just a fraction.

 

It’s then that Rei’s epiphany comes barreling in.

 

“Haruka-senpai, you’re pining,” Rei states, smiling smugly as if he’d just won ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’, which is really comparable to what deciphering Haruka feels like.

Haruka looks up from the ground -where two beautiful butterflies are fluttering around in some sort of a mating dance; nature’s cruel method in tormenting Haruka- to stare wordlessly at his junior. “What?” he asks, bemused.

“Pining, you know, to yearn deeply, to suffer with longing, to long painfully for something unreachable… Ring any bell?“

Of course it rang some bells. So much so that the bells are freaking chiming inside his head consecutively now, one after another, mocking his yearning for something he cannot have. Rei’s words perfectly describes the feelings he’s been refusing to acknowledge. Therefore, instead of admitting, he tries to move the attention away. “You should worry more about Makoto,” Haruka mumbles, pointing towards Makoto who’s curled up into a ball by the wall, cellphone clutched in one hand and the other cupped over his mouth to muffle the uncontrollable giggles. “He’s been acting weird since morning.”

Right on cue, Makoto lets out a choked squeal and nuzzles his head onto the tiny cellphone screen, face flushing bright rivalling a tomato. Haruka scowls, but Rei and Nagisa don’t even bat an eyelash.

“Oh, I wouldn’t fret much about Makoto-senpai! It is perfectly normal for him to act this way, especially when he is hooked on his Tumble account.”

“It’s Tumblr, Rei-chan! C’mon, say it with me: Tumb-bel-lerrr!”

Rei brushes off Nagisa with a scoff, adjusting his glasses in a haughty manner (even though they’re already perfectly seated on the bridge of his nose). “I insist on not pronouncing a word that is not spelled accordingly, Nagisa-kun. If it were to be phonated that way, the ‘e’ must be present before the sound can be made.”

Hearing this, Nagisa puffed his cheeks out and starts to yell. “Silly Rei-chan, it’s just a website’s name! And it’s cooler when spelled wrong!”

“No, it isn’t.”

“Yes it is!”

“You’re being childish!“

“So what if I am!“

Just when it seems that a heated war is going to break out, the door slams open and a voice calls out loudly.

“Nagisa-kun?” The voice is undoubtedly a girl’s. Seconds later, the girl appears, long maroon hair flowing freely from her high ponytail, which instantly reminds Haruka of a certain someone. “Ah I’m sorry, did I interrupt something?” She says, staring at the blonde boy whose hands are caught mid-air, in the process of reaching up to steal Rei’s glasses; a classic ‘Nagisa tactic’ at winning arguments.

“Gou-chaaan!” Nagisa cries out excitedly, enjoying the angry expression that blossoms on Gou’s face upon hearing the masculine nickname. Wagging his tongue at Rei, he skips happily towards her and tugs on her hand to bring them closer to the rest. “It’s nothing, just Rei-chan being a mean smartypants and Mako-chan blushing over the likes and reblogs he’s getting.”

Turning to look at Makoto, Gou sees him clutching the phone close to his broad chest (those pectorals are still delicious even beneath the school jacket!) while staring at the sky silently, a shy smile on his lips. Evidently a gone case.

“I see...”

“Come Gou-chan, I want you to meet someone. This is Nanase Haruka, also known as Haru-chan!” Haruka glimpses at them from the corner of his deep blue eyes, unamused whatsoever. The girl’s name is unnervingly familiar… Where has he heard of her before? “Haru-chan, say hello to Gou-chan! She was the friend who helped us with the comments on Rin’s channel, so be nice!”

 

Rin? What has Rin got to do with--

 

Oh. Ohhhh. It’s Rin.

Everything clicks.

 

“Gou?” Haruka questions, getting up hastily to stand face-to-face with the girl, whose cheeks are turning pink as she stares at his torso with an almost predatory look. Haruka has no interest in knowing what she’s gawking so hungrily at. He needs to know if what he’s suspecting is true. “You mean, Matsuoka Gou?”

Gou beams up at him and chirps a cheerful reply. “Yeap, the one and only!”

Haruka tenses.

“I need to talk to you for a bit,” he says, gesturing her to follow him a few steps away, out from the others’ earshot, paying no heed to Nagisa’s ‘Hey, that’s not fair!’ protests. When he’s finally convinced that they’re within safe distance, he whispers (just for good measure, you never know how good people’s hearing can be). “Are you Rin’s little sister?”

“Y-yes, umm—“

“And you knew about Rin’s YouTube account?”

“Of course I would know, he’s my brother!“ Gou replies, giggling softly.

Haruka’s eyes narrow. The girl is giggling. Giggling girls means trouble. “So why did you help out?”

“I… I just wanted him to be happy, and I was hoping you could make that happen, Haruka-senpai.”

That vague answer, however, hardly answers Haruka’s question. Gou had unmistakably known that he’s a guy, and that her brother was hoping to find love, so why would she go through the trouble of conspiring with Nagisa and co to help him win? “Why me? Why not some other girl?” he asks.

Gou visibly hesitates in telling the truth, aware of the hell her brother will put her in if he ever finds out, but as she locks eyes with Haruka’s intense, nearly desperate vivid blues, she gives in. It feels unfair to leave him in the dark. “I’ll tell you, but promise me that you won’t get mad. And that you won’t tell the others about this,” she says. Haruka nods in agreement, and Gou leans in to whisper when she catches Nagisa edging closer to eavesdrop. “You resemble someone my brother used to like. Well, he didn’t even get to talk to that boy, so it’s definitely one-sided... But Nagisa showed me your pictures and I figured that you’re my nii-chan’s type. Black hair, blue eyes, a swimmer…”

Haruka’s eyes widen, breath catching in his throat. Rin used to like someone else before? Well that’s a new one. He always talks about his personal experiences in his vlogs or shares his feelings and opinions about current events, but never once had he mentioned having any love interests. And hearing it from Rin’s little sister just makes the overall broken feelings worse, because it means that Rin doesn’t want him to know about his love life. Rin doesn’t want him to be a part of it.

It hurts a lot more when put into coherent thoughts like this.

“You like him too, don’t you?” Gou suddenly says, smiling gently. Her little smile blossoms into a full-blown grin when she sees how Haruka glows radiantly, turning bashful within seconds (it’s the look her brother had when he talked day and night about the gifted boy with ocean blue eyes clear as water; she may be merely nine then, but she remembers, and she knows one when she sees it). Yeap, definitely in love. Or at least, in like.

“…I—“

“HARU-CHAN, GOU-CHAN, CUT IT OUT ALREADYYY~”

Their exchange is cut short by Nagisa’s whines, and while Gou looks noticeably annoyed by the interruption, Haruka is silently thankful. He’s not sure he can answer the question yet. How can he, when even he can’t put a name to his own feelings?

 

He’ll figure it out. He needs to.

 

It turns out that Nagisa had invited Gou to join their swimming practice that afternoon, after finding out that she has kept copies of her elder brother’s training regimes. Haruka glowers when she starts talking animatedly about her brother (mostly about his amazingly sculpted muscles, but there’re some relevant details thrown in at some point), referring to Rin as ‘nii-chan’ and not once mentioning his name. There’s a strange satisfaction in being the only one who knows what’s actually going on, and as he listens to Gou’s stories, Haruka understands why Rin is so protective of her.

The practice has to end early, taking into account that Makoto keeps losing focus and getting woozy with too much blood rushing to his head. Haruka is curious as to what is affecting his childhood friend so severely, but the thought of going through another fiery hell to sign up for that Tumble site they’re talking about is enough to make him push the prospect aside.

Done with packing up, Haruka reaches for his shoulder bag. A little piece of paper slotted into the side pocket catches his attention.

 

080-673-XXXX
Contact him, my big brother doesn’t bite (hard!) ^o^

 

Haruka feels the corners of his mouth twitch, slowly curling into a soft smile.


It’s the same old Tuesday routine for Haruka, except this time, things are a little different.

He doesn’t switch his laptop on until late evening, when the sun has begun to set, bathing the room with an iridescent hue of orange-yellow. The usually scrumptious miso mackerel he had for lunch for some reason today is tasteless as rice, and for once, the bath doesn’t feel like a thousand layers of downy comforters wrapping around his body, pulling him into its addictive depth. Everything seems strange, and wrong, but that’s probably just the side effects of this Rin-deprived-itis.

That, and the fact that he has Rin’s freaking number now, written on a hidden piece of paper in his bagpack, ready to be called anytime.

 

Using a cellphone has never sounded more interesting than it does now.

 

But first, he needs to cure the lack of Rin in his life, so he whips out the laptop and loads SharkBoiUnleashed’s latest video. The thumbnail is a picture of Rin in a kimono, and Haruka has to hold onto the table to compose himself. Haruka is way too anxious to even hum the melody when the intro song plays, along with its accompanying graphics.

“Hello my lovelies!" Rin waves energetically at the camera, setting free the butterflies in Haruka’s stomach. “Some of you might’ve forgotten, but I’ve actually chosen the winner of my contest some time ago, and we went on the date last week. It was a great experience, and I’ll share with you footages of the beautiful places we visited. I have to warn you earlier though, Sousuke wasn’t there to film stuff, and you know how shaky my hands get when holding a camera,” Rin says, making a show of shaking the camera so that everything goes blurry. It turns out to be a nice transition gimmick, because the next thing that fills the screen is the familiar background of the tatami-mat room they shared at the hot springs inn.

“Now I know that most of you are excited to see who the lucky person was, but for privacy purposes, there won’t be any scenes involving them… Yeap, you’ll just get to see this ugly face then, hope you don’t mind!”

Haruka frowns at the word ugly. Why would Rin call himself ugly? Rin is cute, beautiful, enchanting, mesmerizing, elegant, and if that ‘ugly’ face is the only thing he’ll get to see for the rest of his life, Haruka thinks that he’ll possibly be the happiest man on Earth.

The scene changes, revealing the front view of Aikawa Hot Springs. Rin is using some sort of a one-man camera, because his face is in the video but at the same time, he’s walking and filming it. “Here’s the hot springs that we went to,” Rin says, stopping at the front gate. “And over there, you can see the park. There’s this really really huge cherry blossom tree that I want to show you, we stumbled upon it earlier and it was simply breathtaking.” Rin’s face suddenly turns soft, gaze becoming gentle and fond like he’s recalling a precious memory. “My date liked it too. Said they wanted to draw a picture of it. I wonder if they’ve started… I hope they haven’t forgotten.”

Haruka glances at the torn out pages from his sketchbook that’re scattered on top of the study table. He didn’t forget, but the beauty of that sight is just impossible to replicate. He’ll have to try harder then.

A great sense of nostalgia washes over Haruka as he watches Rin take his viewers around the places they’ve gone together, narrating the available attractions, suggesting activities to do as a couple and of course, giving borderline absurd dating tips.

“The shop rows are pretty nice as well, tons of food to choose from. It’s great for a romantic dinner, if you think classy diners are too mainstream, this is perfect for you!” The video finally returns to Rin in the room, bringing the ‘tour’ to a full circle. “So yeah, that’s about it. You should know by now that I rarely ever rate the places with a five, but this one truly deserves it. Five hearts for Aikawa Hot Springs!” Five floating hearts dance in the corner, and Haruka tries to shake off the disappointment upon seeing that the progress bar has 7 seconds left, red almost completely overtaken the grey.

“Before I forget, I’m gonna leave you with a question: do you believe in love at first sight? Tell me in the comments below and I’ll see you again next time!”

 

The video ends.

The emptiness returns.

 

Haruka’s aware he has three options now; one: press replay and watch the video over again, like the sad obsessed fanboy he is; two: reach for his cellphone and do something about Rin’s number, and three: do nothing except to wallow in self-pity, and regret.

Or four: leave a comment on the video in futile hopes that Rin would notice him in the massive sea of feedback.


But why leave a comment, when he can text?

 

 

Haruka decides to take his chances.

And now all he can do is wait.

Chapter Text

When it comes to texting, for some, there is nothing more irritating than receiving messages from an unknown number, especially if that person doesn’t even have the decency to introduce themselves. Others might think that bad grammar and autocorrect fails are the ones guaranteed to tick them off.

As for Rin, it’s both.

He’s tired, sleepy and grumpy from all that extra hours of swimming practice. Captain Mikoshiba suddenly decided to go all gung-ho on them and insisted on conducting night-time trainings, claiming that their life or death depends on their results in the upcoming summer tournament and that there’s no such thing as too much preparation. Rin usually agrees to this set of thinking, he believes in hard-work paying off after all, but lately he’s just feeling out of it and all he wants to do at this point is to curl up underneath layers of warm blanket and wrap them around himself over and over until he turns into a piece of burrito.

 

A sloppy, pitiful and sulky burrito of sadness and misery. With a dash of sorrow.

 

“Matsuoka-senpai, welcome back!” Nitori’s squeaky voice greets him the minute he steps into their shared room, looking as energetic as ever despite having just endured the same intense training. “How was your day?”

“Yo,” Rin greets back, just for the heck of it. “It’s okay-ish, thanks for asking.”

Nitori looks close to detonating -obviously not expecting the kind reply- still staring at Rin with that sparkly admiration even though Rin’d just spent the whole yesterday snapping at him at every little thing. Sometimes Nitori makes him feel old and worn out, like he’s seventeen going on seventy. And he’s not the one with a head full of grey hair (Nitori keeps defending that it’s silver, but whatever).

Sousuke is right, it’s unfair to use his conflicted emotions about Haruka as an excuse to chew out everyone.

Shrugging his jacket off, Rin heaves a long sigh, diving into the bed and letting the mattress bounce a little under his weight. This is partly the reasoning behind his penchant for the bottom bunk; jumping into bed after a long gruesome day doesn’t come with a risk of breaking it in half, though Rin had seen Nitori done it once before without any dire consequences. But then again, that kid weighs a feather.

Getting ready for his beauty sleep, Rin empties his pockets and takes out his cellphone, sliding it open to check the time.

 

That’s when he notices the messages. Or was it ‘massages’? Rin doesn’t know what his eyes are seeing anymore.

 

At first glance, the autocorrects are hilarious, he’d give ‘em that –why did ‘believe’ get corrected to Bieber anyway?!- but he’s not in the mood for some childish prank. Scanning through the words, however, Rin realizes instantly that the person was referring to his question at the end of his latest video. Damn, does he have a stalker now? Rin can’t recall ever revealing his personal information to anyone online for exactly this reason; it’s one thing to have random girls on the streets stopping you for a photo or a signature (yes, he has reached that point of fame, though it’s not that often) but it’s another trouble to have them getting hold of your private number. Rin grips his cellphone tight, chills running along his spine at the thought.

It’s creepy, of course, but he still has to find out who this person is. Even if he ignores it now, Rin is aware that the unresolved mystery is still going to come back biting him in the ass sooner or later.

Determined, he types his reply hastily.

 

 

 

Once he hits send, Rin hears restless rustles from the top bunk, indicating that Nitori is having difficulties sleeping. It’s the lights, he figures. Feeling a tad bit guilty, he gets up to switch them off, yielding a groggy murmur of appreciation from Nitori.

Rin’s climbing back in bed when his phone buzzes and the awaited message arrives.

Moment of truth, Rin thinks as he unlocks it, squinting a bit at the sudden onslaught of bright white light.

 

 

 

Tch, so it’s just Haru--

Wait, HARU??

 

Rin’s cellphone slips from his grasp, landing on the bed just a few inches shy from falling off the edge and crashing onto the floor. Time seems to have stilled for a moment as Rin scrambles to take his phone and run his eyes over the texts once again, trying to make sense of what he’s actually seeing.

 

This can’t be happening. It’s a stupid joke, right?

 

There’s really only one way to confirm.

Rin hurriedly sneaks out from the room, phone in hand, heading towards a quieter spot in the corridor. The last thing he’d want is to wake Nitori up with his loud yells and shrieks, which are bound to happen regardless if it’s really Haruka or not. If it is Haru, he’d scream in uncontrollable exhilaration, if it’s not, he’d shout bloody murder.

Waiting for the call to connect is excruciating. His heartbeat keeps on increasing in speed with each passing ring and his palm now seems to have a freaking sweat pipe connected to it.

At last, one ring away from entering the voicemail box, a sound comes through. “Hello?”

 

It’s Haruka.

Rin knows, because the same voice has been haunting his dreams and looping in his mind for days.

 

“Oh my god,” Rin breathes, knees trembling, pulse running for gold medal in 100m Olympics. “Shit.”

It’s a complicated feeling: he wants to cry tears of joy, because this is Nanase Haruka on the other end of the line, Haruka whom he thought he’d never find the courage to talk to ever again, whom he thought would be yet another aftermath of lost chances and careless affection, but at the same time he’s upset, because wouldn’t this just mean that Haruka is more of a man than he is?

“My name’s not ‘Shit’,” Haruka replies plainly.

That does it.

Rin starts to break into fits of laughter, unable to control his thoughts and emotions anymore. “Haru it’s really you! Crap, I could totally picture what your face is like when you said that!” Rin says in between bouts of giggles, having had to hold onto the railing to keep himself from keeling over. He’s glad that it’s late at night and everyone else has gone, or else he’d have to explain why he was cackling like a madman in the middle of the dormitory walkway. Haruka doesn’t utter a word, choosing to listen to Rin’s shameless chuckles until they slowly subside. “Haven’t laughed that hard in a while, thanks.”

Haruka gives a small ‘hmmm’ in return.

Rin can anticipate what comes next, it’s the awkward silence that has by now become such a customary thing when talking to the boy. Even face-to-face, they barely exchange words at all, what would make a phone call any different?

He knows that if he’s gonna make this work, the circumstances have to change. Clearing his throat, he asks. “So, uhh… from Gou, huh?”

 

Wow, way to go Rin. What a great start for a conversation.

 

“Yes,” Haruka says, unperturbed. “We met during lunch. She’s a friend of Nagisa.”

“And is this Nagisa a girl or…?”

“A boy. One year younger than us.”

Fighting the urge to snort, Rin looks up and peers through the windows, eyes locking on the moon slowly shying away behind the gray puffs of clouds, the view mesmerizing and serene as always. He sighs. Boys with girly names –a rare occurrence in itself- all somehow becoming friends with one another. His baby sister somehow knowing Haruka’s friend and taking her liberty in sharing his number without his consent.

Such are the wonders of the world.

“Oh, did Gou say anything about me?” Rin asks, keeping in mind to check on this Nagisa’s background to make sure he’s not a threat to Gou. Any human with XY chromosome is a potential threat, better safe than sorry.

“Mmhmm. She said some… stuff.”

Hearing the hesitance in Haruka’s tone, Rin raises an eyebrow to an empty audience. He’s getting some fairly bad vibes from this. “What stuff?”

“Not much. Nothing that I’d want to tell you,” Haruka mumbles, almost incomprehensible.

Rin lets loose a frustrated groan. “Are you for real? My sister may or may not just smeared charcoal on my reputation here, and you’re gonna be a lil’ shit now? I’m worried to death, Haru, I’ll go crazy if I don’t find out.”

Haruka goes silent, perhaps genuinely contemplating on his choices before finally giving in. “…Fine. She told me about how you first started making videos.”

“And…?”

“Something about you going to Austria for a bit.”

“It’s Australia, Haru. And what else? That can’t be all, I know my little sister, she won’t stop at just that,” Rin states, on the verge of pleading for the truth. He needs to know. “Haru, tell me.”

“She... talked about your first crush, the boy with blue eyes and black hair.“

“I knew it,” Rin scoffs, feeling anger and humiliation bubbling up inside him. “Damn it, I knew Gou would say that!”

“Are you angry, Rin?” Haruka asks, startled. “I’m sorry,” he mutters softly.

Rin suddenly feels bad about lashing out, it’s not like he’s that pissed anyway. “What, no! I’m not angry, okay maybe a little at Gou for pulling that stunt on me, but definitely not at you,” he says. “I’m just, embarrassed, alright? It’s not something I can be proud of, or want others to know.”

“Why not?”

 

Gosh, are they honestly gonna have this talk?

 

“Thousands of reasons, honestly. The most blatant one is that I was a boy, crushing on another boy. It’s kinda weird.” Rin rubs the back of his neck awkwardly, not sure whether or not to continue. Haruka’s silence urges him on. “Also, I only met him once. We’ve never even talked, which would imply that I only liked him for his looks. It wasn’t the case, obviously. I think I was more taken with his swimming, rather than his face,” Rin explains, turning to lean his back against the wall and close his eyes, letting a nostalgic smile creep onto his face at the flooding memories of the boy whose name he doesn’t even know. “And I was a kid. Too young, and stupid.”

Just when Rin is so sure that Haruka’s image of him has changed for the worse, said guy speaks up. “I don’t see anything wrong with liking another boy.”

“You don’t? Are you one of those ‘for equality’ people?”

“What.”

Rin snickers. Haru is being so… Haru. It’s laughable, really. “It’s nothing, just that, you’re way more open than I thought, Haru. About the love at first sight… You really believe in that kind of stuff?”

“You see something, and you like it. There isn’t so much of a choice,” Haruka says. “It is what it is.”

 

It’s not even the most romantic thing he’s ever heard, but already Rin feels like he’s going to freaking suffocate and die.

 

“That’s pretty deep, coming from you,” Rin coughs lightly, fiddling with his fringe, letting the strands slide smoothly in between his fingers (no, he doesn’t look like a lovestruck teenage girl, shut up). “I mean, you don’t seem the type to talk about feelings with others, you know? You tend to give the impression of keeping things to yourself.”

“You’re the first.”

There’s a hint of a smile in Haruka’s soft voice, like he knows he’s just said something that would make Rin blush furiously. Rin tries not to dwell on it, but he imagines Haruka sprawled on the bed, phone pressed to his ear, feet kicking lightly at the sheets and smiling because of him. He imagines the up all nights they could have, the whispered sweet nothings and pointless bickering they could share. Everything’s just so overwhelming, and Rin feels his chest well up with something he can’t put a finger onto.

 

It’s ridiculous how badly he wants this. And they’re not even friends yet (or maybe they already are? Rin needs to check with Haru on that).

 

There’s a question persistently running through his mind all this while, and a tiny part of Rin tells him to refrain from asking, afraid of the answer. He does it anyway.  “Liking someone and all… You ever felt that way before?”

“Maybe,” Haruka replies, teasingly.

“Hey, that’s not fair! I just told you my dark secret, details included, it’s only right that you share at least something with me!”

Haruka lets out a noise that’s probably the closest he can ever get to a laugh, clearly amused by Rin’s outburst. In the end, Haruka tells, about his experience with ‘love at first sight’ (which involved, of all things possible, a waterfall) and other silly things. Rin listens to them all despite his eyelids growing heavy, because it’s not often that Haruka actually talks, at all.

 

Good things never last, though.

 

“Wait, shhh. I think I heard someone walking,” Rin whispers, pulling the phone away a bit to focus on his surroundings. He hears footsteps coming closer, and at the realization, hastily glances at his phone’s clock. 11.37 P.M. “Oh shit, it’s probably the warden on duty. They always make rounds at this time, and we have to be in our rooms by eleven.”

“You have to go now?”

“If I don’t want to get into trouble, yes.” Rin fidgets a bit, getting ready to take off in case the warden arrives before he can return to his room. If he could, he would’ve liked for the call to last longer, but a Friday detention or getting barred from weekend outings isn’t what he’s aiming for. “Thanks… you know, for texting me first and, yeah. I kinda, umm,” like you say it Rin say it! “…like talking to you.”

“Yeah, me too. Take care, Rin.”

There was none of that ‘you hang up’ ‘no you hang up’ crap; Rin ends the call as soon as Haruka says the final word, rushing back to his room with his face on fire and curling back under the covers into the burrito he was, except this time a giddy, fiercely blushing burrito.

 

And if anyone mentions the little ♥ that comes after Haru’s name in Rin’s contact list, he’s just going to brush it off as something that happened in the spur of the moment.


The next day, nothing can describe Rin better than ‘a cat that got the cream’.

 

Rin is practically glowing the whole morning, flashing charming radiant smiles at every single person he meets; a stark contrast to how he was the day before. Now it’s common knowledge that Matsuoka Rin is one of the most attractive males in the school -which is quite a feat as the school’s actually 100% boys-, but when he’s all lovey-dovey, blushing shoujo protagonist like this, his attractiveness meter just skyrockets without warning, capable of making even the straightest guy do a double take when he passes by.

He’s jogging around the school compound alongside Nitori, clad in his usual midnight black/lime green T-shirt and matching leggings which make his legs seem never-ending, not noticing how the boys around start dropping dead one by one. “Nitori, I think your stamina is improving a little. That’s good, we’ll go for a jog tomorrow morning too, ‘mkay?” Beaming at his junior, Rin ushers him to get some rest. Poor kid looks awfully red today, for some reason. “Ah, Sousuke’s here. See ya."

“Y-y-yes, senpai! Have a g-great day!”

Coming back from getting a drink, Sousuke gapes as Nitori dashes past him, looking the happiest he’s been since forever. He stares questioningly at Rin. “Wow. Yesterday you were a dying shark, today you’re a flying rainbow unicorn. What happened in between?”

“I talked to him,” Rin replies, unable to resist grinning from ear to ear. He resumes jogging at a faster pace, prompting Sousuke to keep up.

“Who?” Sousuke asks.

“Haruka.” 

 

Sousuke stops so quickly, his sneakers make a screeching sound against the floor. He manages to tug on Rin’s arm just in time, forcing him to stumble backwards harshly.

 

“Oww, what the hell Sou?”

“Tachibana’s number.” Sousuke holds his palm out, fingers moving in a fluid ‘gimme’ motion. “I know you have it, Rin. Give it to me.”

“Sou, I talked to Haruka! I freaking talked to my crush, I couldn’t even breathe properly, how was I supposed to ask him for Makoto’s number?” Rin exclaims. “I don’t even remember whatever the fuck it was that I talked about. Probably something that further proved how stupid I am.”

“Aha.” Smirking, Sousuke jabs Rin in the ribs. “So you admit you have a crush on him.”

“Remind me why am I friends with you again.”

“Excuse me, I am the ‘bestest’ friend you can ever ask for. You wanna know why?” Rin makes a face as Sousuke begins to dig around in his sweatpants’ pocket, taking out a piece of neatly folded paper and handing it to him. “Because I do things like this.”

Unfolding the paper carefully, Rin seeks for the correct side before reading the printed letters.

 

PROPOSAL FOR JOINT SWIMMING PRACTICE WITH IWATOBI HIGH

The Swimming Team of Samezuka Academy hereby would like to formally extend our invitation to the members of Iwatobi High Swim Club on the following weeks in preparation for the summer tournament…

 

It’s a one-page letter detailing their agenda, venue and other information like any other society’s official letters would have, but Rin can’t be bothered to read further because Iwatobi High? What the fuck?  Haru is in that club. It doesn’t make sense.

“You’re kidding me,” Rin hisses, crumpling the paper and tossing it back at Sousuke. “This is not funny, Sou. You can pull shitty pranks on me as much as you want, pour glue into my shampoo or force me into a maid dress, I don’t care, but you do not play with my feelings like this.”

Sousuke merely shakes his head slowly, smug grin never leaving his face. He bends to pick the paper up and smoothes it out. “It’s true. I talked to Captain and he gave the green light.”

“Captain Mikoshiba did?! How on Earth did you manage to convince him to something so out of the blue?”

“Trust me, you wouldn’t want to know.”

 

(He might have passed Gou’s number to Mikoshiba, but Rin doesn’t need to know that. Sousuke still needs his balls for human race repopulation endeavours in the future, thank you very much.)

 

Rin appears conflicted for a bit, as if unable to accept the breaking news. He comes to term with it soon enough, throwing a bear hug around his friend. “Thanks Sou. You’re the best!” He says. “The first session’s more than a week from now, though, what am I supposed to do before then?”

“Okay, for starters, you can use the time to get ready for the YouTube FanFest this weekend… Finalise the script for your panel session, your outfits, printed posters--” Sousuke halts, unspoken words hanging in the air upon noticing Rin’s panicking expression. “Rin. Don’t tell me you forgot about it.”

Grinning lopsidedly, Rin starts to pale, stuttering out a weak “Uhhh…”

“RIN!”

“I didn’t forget, I swear I didn’t! I just, had my mind preoccupied with other things…” Like a certain water-loving guy… Grabbing onto his best friend’s shoulder, he pleads. “You’ll be going too, you can help me with all these.”

“Unfortunately,” Sousuke starts, shrugging off Rin’s hold with one push. “Comiket falls on the same day this year.”

Ah, Comiket. Of course. Rin sometimes forget that behind the cool and dashing exterior of his handsome friend lies a nerdy fanatical otaku, passionate enough to spend days squirming around in a sea of sweaty humans for the sake of buying rare collectors’ merchandises and limited-edition doujinshi meant for purposes Rin doesn’t even want to begin to think.

“Okay, but Comiket runs for three days, you can afford to skip one day, right?”

“REIKA’s cosplay booth is having a special exhibition, and there’s also this new cosplayer… I think his name is Orca? Fake name obviously. Saw him on Tumblr, he’s really great and he said he’ll be there only on that day, so no, I can’t skip.”

Rin gasps. Sousuke is ditching him for some anime thing, seriously?

“But Sou, you’re the only crew I have! My homie, my man!”

Sousuke’s laugh sounds deep but gentle, and Rin can’t find the strength in him to get mad at that. “And you, Rin, are the star of the show. I’m your cameraman and video editor, for god’s sake, they don’t even know my face. They want to see you,” he reassures with a pat. “Dude, you’ll do fine. Just show your sharkteeth smile and everything will be alright. The girls will swoon and fall at your feet, begging you to sign on their T-shirt with your face on it.”

“It’s kinda disturbing when you put it that way,” Rin cringes, picturing the hordes of fans cheering for him. It’ll be different, certainly. These are the people he’s never met before, only seen usernames and lovely supportive comments on his videos, and now he’s meeting the whole lot of them in one place.

 

A stray train of thoughts brings him towards Haruka.

 

Does he know about this? Rin wonders. He ends up laughing at himself. It’s useless. Haruka and crowded places just don’t blend together; if given the choice, Rin is sure the guy would choose to be in the comforts of his warm bathtub, not trapped in a smothering mob jam-packed like canned mackerels.

“I’ll try,” he takes a deep breath; in… out. "But I still have this nagging feeling that you just jinxed me.”

Chapter Text

Haruka has been feeling rather under the weather lately, his sketchbook left abandoned on the table for quite some time along with the other irrelevant items (cellphone has been promoted to the ‘Quite Useful Technologies’ category and therefore no longer belongs in that stash). It’s just too difficult, to try and get his artistic muse going when every other part of him is a massive blob of messy thoughts and unsorted emotions. Art is a way of expression, the only other way he knows of other than swimming, and putting thoughts and ideas on paper is basically impossible without a clear mind.  The latest drawings he had managed to complete were the penciled portraits of a certain maroon-haired boy which are now safely locked away in his room, hidden from curious prying eyes, and even that was practically ages ago.

 

Today, however, he is inspired.

 

It’s probably the exhilaration from the tiny dose of Rin he’s gotten from last night’s call, or maybe it’s the sudden surge of motivation that came from knowing that Rin is still waiting for him to uphold his promise, but regardless of what drove him to pick the pencil up again, Haruka simply has the urge to draw. In fact, the urge is so strong and powerful, it rivals the pulling force to strip that he usually gets whenever a body of water is nearby.

He’s quietly working on shading at his place in the classroom’s corner when Nagisa suddenly decides that it’s his job to become some sort of a Nanase Haruka Observation Officer and thus holds the responsibility to narrate and point out Haruka’s every single action.

“Ehhhh… Haru-chan is getting back to drawing stuff again? He’s back to his normal self… Something good must’ve happened!”

The pencil in Haruka’s grip stops its graceful movements. He looks up from the unfinished sketch, staring at Nagisa who’s leering at him like he knows something he doesn’t.

Haruka shifts in his seat. He’s elated alright, that’s a given -anything even remotely related to a Rin tends to have that effect on him- but the only thing he’s been doing for the past half an hour is trying to finish the promised cherry blossom tree drawing, nothing else. Not even a smile that could give him away. So how did Nagisa catch on so fast? Does it really show on his face, or something?

“He does have a lighter air around him, I must say,” Rei the Observation Officer #2 chips in, humming thoughtfully. “Perhaps Haruka-senpai managed to cure his severe pining, somehow?”

“Oooohhh, is that true, Haru-chan? Did you speak to Rin-chan? Tell us, tell us! We want all the juicy details!”

Nagisa is practically shoving his face into Haruka’s right now, wide magenta eyes sparkling in enthusiasm, but this time, thankfully, Makoto comes to his rescue. Makoto has been around him for so long that he knows exactly what to say at just the right time, and for that, Haruka is forever (silently) grateful. “Nagisa, Rei, give him some space. Haru’s not going to answer if you keep sticking on to him like that.”

“You’re one to talk, Mako-chan. You guys keep doing that weird telepathic look thingy, it gets really annoying sometimes!” Nagisa huffs, crossing his arms in feigned anger.

Makoto only laughs it off like the angel he is. To tell the truth, even he is unable to explain how he can comprehend Haruka so well; maybe it’s simply how it is when you’re best friends with someone for almost the entirety of your life.

“Speaking of which, Makoto-senpai also seems to have developed symptoms of a fairly hard-to-treat illness, from what I have observed…” Rei abruptly says.

Makoto gasps. “S-symptoms? Illness? Am I sick, Rei?” He screeches, hands clutching onto his face for dear life. “Oh my god, am I dying?!”

While Makoto appears utterly petrified, waiting anxiously for Rei to explain, Haruka has gone back to adding more petals onto the drawing, wholly ignoring his three friends and tuning their bizarre conversation out. He’s learned from experience that the best thing to do is to pretend that he’s not listening. It helps keep his sanity intact.

“Indeed, you are sick, Makoto-senpai. It has come to my conclusion that you are suffering from a serious condition called… lovesickness,” Rei finishes, looking satisfied with his own conclusion.

“AAAHHHHH!” Makoto yells at first, and it takes him a while before it finally sink in that he’s not actually dying, or even sick for that matter. Rei is just being Rei again. “Wait, that’s not a real disease. That’s something you made up,” he frowns.

“No no no, it is in fact, an actual phenomenon. Physicians from all over the world have documented encounters with lovesick patients, and the reported symptoms perfectly match yours, Makoto-senpai,” the bespectacled boy retorts. “Frequently spacing out, unprompted giggling, rapid rate of blushing… You probably have it worse than Haruka-senpai, actually.”

Makoto is clearly taking the bait, from the way he’s getting increasingly alarmed. “B-but that’s not possible! I don’t even know who he is or--” Clamping a hand over his mouth upon realizing what he’d just let slip, Makoto flushes a deep scarlet, bright green eyes widening in shock. “I… I’m going for a walk,” he stutters before dashing out the classroom, knocking over several chairs in the process.

“Awwww, see Rei-chan? You made Mako-chan flustered!” Nagisa chides, slapping Rei hard on the arms. Rei winces painfully but doesn’t seek for revenge, and once again Haruka questions the poor boy’s excessively high level of tolerance. “He’ll be back soon though… So! Haru-chan. Feel like spilling the beans yet?”

“I’m not telling you.”

Exchanging a look with Rei, Nagisa stealthily reaches into his pockets to produce a piece of card, the colour a lovely gold. It glints in the lights of the classroom, so eye-catching that Haruka can’t help stealing a quick glance at it. “Oh yea?” He says cheekily, waving the small card around, fanning himself with it. “Hmmmm, looks like we’ll have to give this Golden Pass to Rin-chan’s meet-and-greet session to someone else then…”

 

Haruka goes rigid, head snapping up faster than a person can say ‘eh’, which is, so to say, pretty fast.

 

“What meet-and-greet?” He asks.

Nagisa grins, sticking out his tongue mockingly. “Not gonna tell youuuu~~”

 

Haruka glares. Two can play this game.

 

Then it all happens in a split second. Haruka leaps up from the chair to snatch the ticket from Nagisa’s grasps, a bit of struggling and scuffling takes place between the two, and Haruka tightens his hold on Nagisa’s wrist when the boy tries to get away. “Hey, no grabbi—ugh, give it—back! Haru-chan that hurts!” Nagisa exclaims, wincing in pain when Haruka’s elbow accidentally knocks on the side of his head in their little tussle. He turns towards his boyfriend and whines loudly. “Rei-chan, help me!!”

Before anyone can interfere, the wrestle ultimately ends with the older one holding the item in his hands, emerging triumphant.

“You were asking for it, Nagisa-kun,” Rei shakes his head in disapproval. Nagisa begins to pout and unleash his adorable shota powers, rendering Rei a melted puddle of goo, sighing in defeat. “There, there… I’ll kiss it better.” He leans in to press his lips softly on the injured area (which is an exaggeration because really, it’s not even bruising or anything), smiling fondly when the boy wraps his arms around him and lets out a content giggle.

A short distance away, oblivious to his friends’ little sweet moment, Haruka continues scrutinizing the ticket with renewed curiosity. True enough, Rin’s channel name is etched onto it, along with the details of the event. “Where did you get this from?”

“Pffft, come on, we’re ButterPenguin143 -the most notorious YouTube duo in Japan, popular for all the wrong reasons- of course we have our own special connections!”

“Were you planning to give this to me?”

“Well, our genius Rei-chan here figured that you might need some help in this whole ‘making the move’ thing, considering how socially incompete—“ Nagisa makes a choking noise when he feels a painful pinch on his back and coughs lightly to cover up. “I mean, relationship-challenged you are. And I thought, hey, what better way is there for Haru-chan to take his first step than meeting Rin-chan in the circle of people involved in that one website that started it all, right? So we got this ticket for you!”

Rei nods, stepping forward to place a warm, assuring hand on Haruka’s shoulder. “And we will be there too, if you are concerned about being left alone in unfamiliar surroundings.”

“That’s right! Rei-chan and I are one of the invited guests, we’ll be acting out some of our fans’ scenarios, kind of like a short skit,” Nagisa says, rubbing his hands in excitement. “Oh man, I can’t wait to see their faces when we make out on stage or something! Fanservice, fanservice!”

“Nagisa-kun, don’t,” Rei warns. He turns his gaze towards Haruka, who appears to have fallen into a deep thought. “Haruka-senpai, what are your thoughts on this? Do you want to go? I fully understand if you wish not to—“

“I’ll go,” comes Haruka’s answer. His grip on the ticket tightens as he wears a determined expression. Meeting Rin again? How can he say no to such a chance? “I’ll attend it. Thanks Nagisa, Rei.”

Makoto re-enters the classroom moments later, kind beaming smile back on his face as he makes his way to the table. “Sorry I took a while, guys. There was a lost little kitten at the schoolyard and gosh, he was so small and fluffy, I couldn’t resist,” he explains, but when he sees a reluctant Haruka squished in the middle of a group glomp by Nagisa and Rei, he blinks, puzzled.  “Umm, okay. What did I miss?”

Haruka sighs. “A lot, Makoto. A lot.”

 

Guess it’ll take a long, long while for him to adjust to having Cupids as friends.


 

It’s pretty crazy how fast a week passes by.

 

Despite the last minute preparations and with minimal help from Sousuke –whom Rin swears will get back at for ditching him- Rin miraculously sorts it all out just in time before the big day. The posters are neatly packed in cardboard boxes, as are the limited edition merchandise and other stuff to be given out to the lucky fans.

The only thing he has minor trouble with is the clothes to wear; normally in his videos, Rin goes for the simple boy-next-door look, but for some reason –call it insticts or sixth sense- he feels like he should at least try to dress nicer for this. Nitori settles that for him though; apparently the kid has a somewhat commendable fashion sense, advising him to choose a red fleece jacket and some grunge print tee he had lying around in his closet over the usual plaid+black/white combination. It’s kinda refreshing, having another person commenting on your outfit before you go out in public, for a change.

Youtube Fanfest is an annual event that brings together established and rising YouTube stars from all around the world, providing their fans the perfect medium for live interaction, on top of opening opportunities for talks regarding future collaborations between channels. Videos on the website are more often than not heavily edited, so even though the viewers are watching these people talking, making song covers, doing funny things, etc., they’re not seeing the whole picture. This is the chance for them to see their admired stars without the computer screen in between, and while it’s a dream come true for the fans, for first-time YouTubers like Rin, he’s nervous as hell. He’s only risen to unexpected fame within this year itself; unlike the others, his fanbase is comparatively new and shaky.

What if the people think he’s lame or lousy in real life? What if he lets them down? That jinxed feeling he got from before still hasn’t gone away, like something big is going to take place.

 

Rin decides; if he screws this thing up, he’s blaming Sousuke for it. That bastard had it coming.

 

Unsurprisingly, the number of turn ups is outstanding. Rin has heard from the organisers that all the tickets are already sold out, and there’ll be at least a couple hundred attending his sessions today. Hearing that hits him hard, SharkBoiUnleashed was created initially only for fun, never would he have thought that it’d ever grow so big.

There’s a long line waiting for him, screaming his name when he arrives, and Rin quickly learns that people are amazing when they really put their hearts into something. Not twenty minutes in and he already has a mountain of presents from his fans, and the number of selfies he’s had to take so far is incredible, not to mention the hugs and kisses on cheeks.

“Next please,” Rin says, sweet welcoming smile ready on his lips. Before he can say hello, an A3 poster of him clad in his favourite grey tank tops and black cardigan is placed in front of him, along with a large, thin and square-ish package wrapped in silver paper, which he assumes is a gift. There’s also a single dark red rose with white ribbons tied to its stem on the side. Rin giggles softly. That’s really sweet of them. “Hey, how’re you doing?” He greets cheerfully, looking up to make eye contact.

 

And when he does, he freezes.

 

“Haru?!” Rin shouts. Almost everyone within 10 meter radius turn simultaneously to the source of the loud sound, and in the midst of surprise and humiliation, he resorts to whispering harshly. “What’re you doing here!”

Haruka -despite the continuous waves of emotions crashing repeatedly against the shores in his chest and the barely containable desire to touch Rin to make sure he’s real- somehow manages to keep a blank indifferent look on his face, pointing to the edge of the crowd where two boys stand, watching their interactions. “My friends told me about this event. So I came here to see you,” he says. “By the way, the short one is Nagisa. Taller one is Rei. They’re YouTubers too.”

At the side, Rin’s line of vision catches the said boys, who are now waving enthusiastically and giving them a thumbs up. So that’s Nagisa. He’s wearing a downright creepy grin, and Rin suspects he’s seen the exact same smile on Gou lately- talk about bad influence.

Rin facepalms and lets out a muffled groan into his hand, feeling an incoming headache. “You can’t be here, Haru.”

Haruka’s eyebrows furrow, looking slightly offended. “I don’t need your approval to stay,” he says.

“Of course you do!”

“Why’s that?”

“You… you’ll distract me!”

Haruka pushes the poster on the table closer towards Rin, reminding him that he’s here for a purpose. “I’m not even doing anything.”

“You are!” Flustered, Rin hisses, feeling his face warming up. “You’re doing, things to me when you’re here!” God, that sounds way more embarrassing than it did in his head.

The line is not getting any shorter, and people are beginning to wonder what’s holding them up, whispering restlessly among themselves. One of the volunteering staff taps Rin on the shoulder, taking his attention off the petty argument with Haruka and back to the seemingly endless queue that runs behind. In a state of desperation, Rin grabs a marker pen in the most jarring shade of red and signs his name spitefully in huge, bold strokes that take up almost the entirety of the poster. He glowers at Haruka and looks away instantly, unable to meet those glittering blue eyes. “Fine, you can stay. But don’t do anything weird.”

Taking the poster back and rolling it up neatly, Haruka mumbles a soft “I won’t”.

 

Ten seconds later, he still hasn't moved.

 

Staying rooted to the ground, Haruka looks like he has something on his mind, and knowing how hard it is to get the boy to open his mouth, Rin does the favour. "What else?" He snarls.

"I still haven't gotten my hug yet."

Rin sputters, eyes widening in disbelief. "What?"

"You hugged everyone before, but not me."

"That's because you're a guy. In case that's not obvious enough for you."

"It shouldn't matter if I'm a boy," Haruka replies. "I'm still your fan too."

Someone in the queue starts coughing softly, and in the period of time Rin uses to mull over his decisions, the coughing turns to really bad, wheezing noises. That's the cue that Haruka needs to move now or a lot of people are going to be pissed.

It's just a hug, stupid, Rin tells himself as he stands up to pull Haruka in. You're just hugging Haruka, no big deal.

Their chests meet. Rin tries not to think about how fast Haruka's own heartbeats feel against his, how he's missed this since that last time at the train station, but then warm hands go up to rest on his shoulder blades and the smell of Haruka's hair assaults his senses when he breathes, and oh god, now the voices in his head are screaming moremoremore.

Rin pulls away with a jerk. "That should be enough," he mutters. It's not. It's not enough.

Haruka nods, subtly smiling in satisfaction before walking away, leaving Rin in shambles.


The next session is Q&A, and to add on to Rin’s exasperation, Haruka hasn’t budged a single inch from where he’s been standing in the crowd, still staring at him with that undecipherable gaze that renders him frustrated.

Haruka is one of the few males in the sea of fangirls; he sticks out like a sore thumb and even more so as he’s the only one who barely reacts to everything that’s happening. He doesn’t laugh when others do, doesn’t squeal or scream when Rin says something romantic or sappy, doesn’t do anything at all. It’s kind of disturbing, and also gravely distracting, because how can someone ever concentrate when their crush is right in front of them anyway? Heck, Rin’s actually quite proud that he hasn’t done anything shameful in front of the audience. Yet.

Halfway through the Q&As, with Rin already having had to get a few of the queries repeated whenever he zones out –no thanks to Haruka and his stupid beautiful face-, a fan finally throws him the dreaded question, one that no famous personalities can ever escape from.

“Rin-san, I know you must get this a lot, but so far you’ve never given much insight to your love life. So… Do you have a girlfriend?”

 

Why am I not dead yet, Rin wonders. If there’s a perfect time to die, it’s now.

 

But Rin is a professional, and letting his fans down is definitely a no-no, so he replies with a bashful grin. “I don’t,” he confesses, giving way to a chorus of excited cheers from the crowd. Inevitably, his eyes flit over to Haruka. The boy is gazing at him so intensely, Rin feels his heart gives a lurch. “But I do have my eyes on someone… shit, that’s embarrassing. Forget I said that, alright!”

The crowd roars with laughter, and to Rin’s horror, he notices a little curve in Haruka’s lips resembling a smile. However, the smile appears more melancholic than happy, almost sad even, but before Rin can dwell on it further, another girl has dropped her question.

“If, say, that person is in front of you right now, how would you ask her out?”

 

Of course, once you get into the topic of love, it kickstarts a chain of related questions. That’s what you get when you’re a charming, attractive, confirmed-single teenage guy who gives out dating advices on YouTube. And that, is the recipe for disaster.

 

“Y-you mean you want me to… say the stuff I would, here? In front of everyone?”

A loud “Yeah!!” resounds from the audience, followed by some whistling and applause.

“Why is everyone being so mean?” Rin pulls his jacket up to cover his face, grumbling into the fabric. The cheers only get louder and louder. “God! Okay, okay! The things I do for you guys, seriously,” he sighs, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. “Here goes.”

Perhaps the best word that can describe how that goes is horrendous. For lack of better ideas, Rin stutters out one of the lines from his favourite chick flick complete with some winking action, and because half of the girls have their phones out to record him saying it, the awkwardness rises tenfold and he messes it up pretty bad.

“Oh man, there’ll be videos of this up soon, won’t there? I’m pretty sure some are being uploaded this very minute. I just humiliated myself in front of the whole wide world and you are all enjoying it!”

 

Everyone starts chuckling instantly at his misery, well, everyone but a certain someone.

 

“One last question for Rin? Anyone?” The MC offers, scanning through the mob to find the final lucky one. She stops at someone and smiles. “Yes, that young man over there. Pass the mic to him, please.”

 

The universe has something against Rin, it seems, because the young man happens to be none other than Nanase freaking Haruka.

 

Fuck his life, seriously.

 

While waiting for Haruka to get his mic, Rin has to take a swig of water because damn, he’s thirsty. His throat feels parched and his lips are numb, and if a robber suddenly breaks in and decides to hold him as a hostage, he’ll probably thank the lad for saving him from this apocalypse waiting to happen.

The mic reaches Haruka and he stares at it for a moment, presumably thinking of what to do with it, before tapping on it incessantly, creating blasts of piercing, unbelievably annoying sounds. A nearby staff rushes over to stop him, telling him that it’s fully functional and that if he keeps that up any longer, there’s bound to be some severe cases of earbleed.

 

Rin’s convinced that almost everyone in the area are just being polite and fighting the urge to roll their eyes (but okay, he has to admit, it's kinda adorable).

 

“Rin,” Haruka starts, pausing to fiddle with the wires. Rin holds his breath, praying hard that it better not be something about love again.

 

“If the world were to end tomorrow, what would be the last thing you’ll do?”

 

Now that’s an unexpected one.

 

To be honest, Rin usually tries to avoid thinking of things like world’s end and the final days because these will only end in nothing but sadness and goodbyes. It’s painful to think that some day, he will have to part from the ones he love, that sooner or later, every story will come to its final chapter. But Haruka is there, patiently waiting for his answer.

“I can’t think of a grand plan, but I’d love to go for a swim in the ocean and watch the final sunset. It’ll be kind of lonely to do it on my own though, so I’ll take that special someone with me, if they’d agree to it.” For some reason, his eyes are locked onto Haruka’s the whole time he’s talking. It’s just too easy to become lost in those blue depths, Rin realizes. “Okay, I’m having some really weird ideas going on in my head right now thanks to that question. So yeah, thank you so much to all of you for turning up today! I’ll end the session here, please enjoy yourselves for the rest of the FanFest!”


 

After Rin’s session ended, Haruka wanders around the vast convention hall aimlessly. The main stage show is already going on live, judging from the deafening screams and booming loud music coming from the next building, but this… this isn’t the place for him. He doesn’t know any other YouTuber except for Rin, Nagisa and Rei, so he can’t be bothered to check them out, and the staggering amount of visitors filling up the spaces is also making him increasingly uncomfortable. He contemplates dropping by Nagisa and Rei’s slot on the stage, but Haruka doesn’t think he can handle being trapped in such a crowd any longer. Besides, he gets to see them getting all lovey-dovey everyday already (frankly, he’s seen them done everything, everything except for… you know, that), so there’s really no point in going.

The thing is, he got to meet Rin again, even talk and pass the finished drawing to him -Haruka wonders if Rin has seen it by now, he sure hopes it’s not lost among the gifts from the other fans- but there’s still a part of him that isn’t satisfied. Seeing that many people admiring Rin is a proper reality check for Haruka; he’s just another fan, there is nothing special about the connection he shares with Rin. There’ll never be something more.

 

Because Rin has someone he likes.

 

Rin has someone he likes, whom he has yet to ask out but is planning to, whom he wants to spend the final day on Earth swimming and watching the last sunset with, and those are the only thoughts running through Haruka’s mind.

There’s that familiar throbbing ache in his chest again. Some day he might have to ask Rei about this.

 

Suddenly, Haruka’s cellphone buzzes in his pocket, startling him. Makoto had forced him into bringing it with him this time, saying that since he couldn’t come along, they must have at least some method of communication so that Makoto could check on him. Figuring that it must be Mamakoto calling, Haruka moves to a less packed place before pulling out his phone.

 

To his absolute surprise, the number that flashes on the screen is Rin’s.

 

Stepping aside from the walkway so as to not block others’ paths, Haruka inhales deeply and presses on the answer button. “Hello, Rin?”

“Are you still here?” Rin’s voice filters in, sounding a tad bit impatient.

“Huh?” Haruka asks back, not being sure if he heard it right –the buzzing noise from the surrounding might have distorted Rin’s words. The fact that Rin is calling him may have also messed with his conscious mind.

Fortunately, Rin seems to have noticed the disturbances in the background, raising his voice a little as he repeats his question. “Have you gone back or are you still at the Fanfest?”

Oh, so he did hear it right. “I’m still here.”

Haruka can hear Rin heaving a long sigh in relief, but for what, he doesn’t know. “Good,” Rin says. “Wait for me by the entrance, I’m on my way.”

The call is over before he can get another word out. Haruka slowly lowers his hand to stare at his cellphone, the screen going dark to reveal a reflection of his stunned, dumbfounded face.

Chapter Text

The entrance to the hall is comparatively vacant when Haruka gets there. Unlike how it was this morning when the sea of people waiting to go inside stretched as far as the eyes could see, it’s quiet now, save for a group of cheerful girls chatting away on the side and a few other people hanging around, scrolling on their phones. Haruka feels at peace here. Or at least he would have, if not for the thunderous pounding in his chest that resounds irritatingly in his ears like the blaring beats of drum from Makoto’s favourite rock band’s song.

Call it a sick game fate is playing on him, but for some obscure reason, Rin wants to meet him.

Again. Just the two of them.

What could it possibly be about? Perhaps Rin is going to scold him for showing up out of the blue? Or maybe Rin is pissed off over that weird question he asked at the end… Well, to be fair, it’s not even his. Nagisa was the one who wrote it down on a piece of paper, claiming that it’s the perfect million-dollar question –simple, sweet but thought-provoking enough to make Rin reveal more interesting details about himself. Nagisa said he took it from a psychology journal Rei was reading. Haruka personally thinks it’s rubbish; if there’s a thing about Rin he had learnt from the answer, it’s that Rin is a painfully cute and endearing when he’s flustered, and that he’s a big romantic sap.

Not particularly a news to anyone.

Clutching onto his shoulder bag tightly, Haruka stands by the glass door, waiting. He’s sweating from the sweltering heat –it is summer after all- and the double layer clothes he’s wearing suddenly seems like a really, really bad idea. The sun has risen high above in the sky, scorching whatever bits of skin he has uncovered. A drop of perspiration trickles down the side of his face, running down mere inches away from the corner of his lips, and he sighs. Yes, he does love water a great deal, but not water mixed with inner bodily toxins and chemicals; it tastes gross, saltier than even the saltiest mackerel he’s ever had.

Haruka shuffles his feet and glances at his watch. Fifteen minutes have passed. Without this heat he would’ve not minded waiting longer for Rin, but his clothes are already sticking to his body resembling a second skin, and it most definitely isn't a good feeling.

“Hey,” A voice calls out, prompting Haruka to look up from the ground. He sees Rin, maroon hair in a ponytail and jacket off, leaving the printed T-shirt underneath. Stylish as always.“Sorry I was late. Got caught up in something... Let’s go grab something to eat.”

“You’re not busy?” Haruka asks.

Rubbing the back of his neck nervously, Rin shrugs. "Nahhh… I don’t have any more sessions after this. I was only on the stage for a while, it’s not like I have to be there all the time,” he replies. “Just figured that since you’re here, we could… hang out for a bit.”

“Where are we going?”

“I know this one sushi place, it’s not far from here. Five to ten minutes if we walk," Rin says, grinning bashfully. Within seconds of realising that he's practically forcing this plan onto Haruka, however, his smile falters. "That is... Unless you have something else to do?"

“No…” Haruka mumbles, still unable to fathom why Rin wants to go have a meal with him, of all people, when it's pretty clear that Rin has so many other acquaintances in this place. Carefully, he studies Rin's face for any signs of anger or distress, but there's none. Rin is absentmindedly playing with the knitted bracelets around his wrist, looking giddy and hopeful, if anything.

Can Haruka say no to that? No, of course not.

“Do they have mackerel sashimi?” Haruka speaks after a moment of seemingly perpetual wait.

Instantly, Rin lights up like a shining star, beaming from ear to ear at Haruka in a charming smile. He leans in towards Haruka, bumping his shoulder a little in a cheeky gesture. "The best you’ll ever have.”


 

Who the hell suggested that they walk all the way in this blistering summer heat, without a parasol or any kind of protection from the sun? Oh right. It's Rin.

"Haru," Rin says, catching Haruka's attention as they turn another corner, following the directions to Saikou Sushi on his phone's map application. They're walking at a pace much too slow for his liking, but that seems to be Haruka's default speed and Rin has no choice but to give in, taking smaller steps than he usually does.  Taking a gray handkerchief out from his pocket, he offers it to Haruka. "Here. You're sweating. Must be uncomfortable."

Rin watches as the boy accepts it wordlessly, dapping gently at his brow, then the bridge of his nose, going down the side of his (beautiful, beautiful) face.

Catching himself staring, Rin turns sharply away, swearing under his breath. "Want to take the jacket off? I can, umm... Hold it for you."

It's obvious how he hesitates at first, but Haruka quietly nods, taking off his jacket and handing it to Rin. "Thanks," he mutters.

"No problem," Rin says, slinging the jacket over his exposed arm, keeping his cool eventhough a freaking hell is breaking loose inside him at the thought of having Haruka's scent linger on him from the piece of clothing.

They walk the remaining distance in silence, each listening to their own maddening heartbeats.


Rin manages to secure a nice spot in the restaurant; a two-seat, side by side near the sushi conveyer belt that’s situated further from the others. Not many people are around, anyway, it’s a languid day for the shop that’s usually bustling at night. Rin’s sure as hell not going to reveal to Haruka that they’re actually sitting at the ‘couple’s corner’, though he suspects Haruka knows already from the snickers and weird looks some people are giving.

They had to order for the mackerel sashimi separately since it’s meant to be fresh, so while Haruka waits for his food, Rin begins plucking a few plates off the belt to dig in.

“I…  I saw the drawing,” Rin says, breaking the comfortable silence that befalls them. “It’s beautiful. The tree looks way too 3D, and don’t even get me started on the cherry blossom petals! You’ve got some pretty amazing skills, Haru, do you draw other stuff as well?”

Yeah. You. “Sometimes. When I feel like it.”

“You should consider going pro in the future, or something. Make a living out of the things you’re gifted in, things you enjoy doing, that way you won’t ever lose the passion.” Rin takes a long, slow sip of his green tea before placing the cup back delicately. “That’s what my dad told me.”

“Your dad sounds like a wise person,” Haruka says.

Rin halts for a split second in the middle of taking a plate of tobiko sushi from the conveyer belt, and Haruka watches a soft fond smile appear on his face. “He was,” Rin replies faintly.

“Was...?”

“He passed away when I was a kid.”

Haruka’s eyes widen, letting out a subtle gasp. “Oh,” he whispers, surges of guilt washing over him. “Rin, I’m sorry, I didn’t know—“

“It’s fine, it’s fine! I don’t think I’ve talked about it in the videos or anything, and it’s been quite a long time anyway, so really, no need to apologise,” Rin chuckles weakly and waves it off, telling him not to worry. Nevertheless, Haruka still can’t shake the regret off; after all, he knows how it feels to lose your loved one for good.

The emptiness doesn’t fade away.

Sensing how gloomy the atmosphere is changing, Rin continues, willing to keep the conversation going on a brighter note. “My dad, he used to tell me stories about chasing after your dreams, fighting for what you want, all that motivational talk and stuff. I grew up thinking that the future is a thing to look forward to, but after a while, I realised that it’s not that easy. There’ll always be something blocking the way… Without the passion, you’ll never last.”

“What about you?” Haruka asks. “What are you passionate about?”

The tone in his voice is different, Rin notices. Haruka has always been monotonous, but this time, he sounds almost… intrigued. Like he’s genuinely interested in hearing what Rin has to say.

Honestly? It’s kind of flattering for him.

Rin twiddles the chopstick in between his fingers, humming in content. “For me, I love making videos,” he starts, closing his eyes, enjoying the calming instrumental that’s just coming on the radio in the background. “But I also love to swim, and if I have to choose between the two… I’ll probably go for swimming. Olympic gold medalist does have a nicer ring to it than a YouTube star, doesn’t it? Sure, I could opt for becoming a YouTube partner and make some money from the views, etc, but I don’t think it’ll be satisfying enough. Not much of a challenge there…” Rin opens his eyes to see Haru looking intently at him. Feeling embarrassed, Rin gushes on, rubbing his hands over his face repeatedly. “Oh my god, Haru I’m sorry, I must’ve bored you to death. And on a freaking date too…“

 

Haruka perks up.

 

“This is a date?”

Puzzled by Haruka’s question, Rin frowns. “What? Wait did I really say that, oh shit I think I did, w-what I meant was today’s date is 25th July and we’re outside, eating together, just the two of us and umm…” Haruka’s clearly not buying it, the cutting edge in his glare not lessening one bit. Rin gives up. “You know what. Fuck it. It’s a date.”

Haruka stares silently, eyes softening a little. “Our second one,” he states. Why does he sound happy?

“Technically, yes,” Rin mutters, stabbing a piece of inari sushi on his plate with a chopstick. “Did the first one really count?”

"I think it counts.”

“Okay, you’re right. Considering that we did all those coupley things and uhh… you know. Slept in each other’s arms.”

“Mhmm.”

 

“So…” Rin pauses, peering at Haruka from under his eyelashes. The boy is still staring at him, clear blue eyes reeling him in like steel to magnet. Self-conscious all of a sudden, Rin bites his lip and blushes at his own words. “I don’t know, do we like, kiss now or what?”

Great, he just killed the mood, didn't he?

Haruka's eyes widen just a tiny fraction at the question, others wouldn't have noticed but Rin does, since he's seated less than a feet away from him. I-it's not like he was gazing into Haruka's eyes or something stupid like that!

“I believe that usually comes at the end of a date,” Haruka suddenly says, downing a glass of water in one go. There’s a glittering drop that spills and trails down his chin, but Rin’s not looking at it (of course he is, who’s he kidding).

Rin laughs, looking away as Haruka’s pink tongue darts out to lick the remnants of liquid from the corner of his mouth. Hah, even he himself can feel the dreadful awkwardness in his laughter. “I’m just joking, really.” He’s not.

Haruka’s gaze falls on the steam that rises in puffy clouds from the tea cup in front of him. Rin’s is fixed on the soy sauce in his plate.

 

 

“But I’m fine with it, if you want to,” Haruka adds.

Taken aback by Haruka's response, Rin turns a couple shades of red, face growing warm. There’s a sinking heaviness in the pit of his stomach, and his hands are cold like he’s been in an air-conditioned room for so long. His eyes flick towards Haruka’s lips, lingering for a brief second before looking away just as fast.

Rin shakes his head. He can’t do this. He’ll have a heart attack if he does.

“No, we could totally save it for some other time, like when we’ve gotten closer, or…”

Turning to face the boy again, the rest of his sentence dies in his mouth when Rin realizes that Haruka is leaning forward.

 

Haruka is leaning in for a kiss. Shit.

 

Rin knows that he has to stop, because this is wrong, they shouldn’t do this. This will be a bad decision. There’ll be lots of regrets and disappointment that can stem from this one kiss, mistakes after mistakes, and Rin can’t afford to make any when it comes to Haruka. He wants to do it right. He hasn’t even confessed yet. 

But he can’t seem to move away.

They’re inches apart, Haruka’s body pressed tight against his side, warmth radiating off his skin. It’s almost like the hot springs night all over again, no spaces in between, just them and these foolish, confusing feelings. Rin senses something bumping against his nose, and a puff of breath that’s not his hitting his cheek.

 

Rin lets his eyes fall shut.

He waits for that moment to come. Closer… and closer…

 

Vrrr! Vrrr!!

His phone vibrates. The melodious tone of OLDCODEX’s song fills the air.

 

Rin doesn’t know whether to laugh, or to cry. Maybe both.

 

Haruka’s startled by the disruption, eyes flying open in shock. He sees Rin jerk away, snatching the phone from the table abruptly. Sighing, he straightens back in his seat, watching Rin take the call almost angrily.

Screw you,” Rin snarls at the caller, who turns out to be –surprise, surprise!- Sousuke.

“I thought it was Nanase whom you wanted to screw. Anyway, Rin you have to hear this! Guess what?” Sousuke exclaims fervently, blissfully ignorant to what he’d just done. “Remember that Orca guy I told you? I met him. Can you believe it?! Oh man, listen, he was cosplaying Tsukiyama, the purple-haired dude from Tokyo Ghoul, and he was wearing the mask so I still—“

“Sou…” Rin grits between his teeth, but Sousuke isn't listening.

“--couldn’t see his face that clearly but damn it, he’s super cool up close! I bought his photobooks, he signed on them and he even wrote my name with a little message—“

Sousuke…”

“—wait, come to think of it I didn’t even tell him my name, hmm, that’s strange, how would he know—“

“SOUSUKE WILL YOU PLEASE SHUT UP FOR A SEC!” Rin finally yells into the phone, the outburst attracting a few curious eyes, including Haruka's. Crap, he really needs to cut down on the dramatic reactions. Cautiously, he cups a hand over his mouth to shield the conversation from Haruka, hissing at Sousuke on the line. "I’ll have you know that you just ruined what should’ve been my first kiss.”

“Damn,” Sousuke laughs. “Sorry, that must’ve sucked. But wow, dude, you sure move fast!”

There may be times when Rin is willing to let Sousuke poke fun at him, but now's not it. He's still plenty irked by the cockblock. "Ugh, I’m hanging up now alright, I’ll listen to your fanboy rants when I get back. Bye.”

"Was it Yamazaki?” Haruka asks as soon as he hangs up.

“Yeah, he’s hyperventilating about some cosplayer he met at Comiket, nothing much,” Rin replies, clearing his throat. “Where did we stop?"

“We were going to kiss."

"Oh," Rin’s face falls. "Alright Haru, I still think that we should keep this for some other time because, you know, it's kinda weird that we're going to do something only couples do when I don't even know if you like me--"

"I like you."

"--exactly, and yeah of course I like you too, but we're-- wait. Did you just say you like me?"

Haruka shrugs. "I did."

"As in, 'you're cool dude I like hanging out with you' kind of like, right?"

"No. Not that.”

Rin quirks his eyebrows. "The 'you took my breath away and I want to be with you forever' kind?"

"Maybe." Haruka falls deep in thought, staring at the ceiling wordlessly like it holds the solutions to his uncertainties. “I don’t know how to explain, Rin. But I like you."

"You don’t know?” Rin titters both in amusement at Haruka’s confusion and also at himself. How is this guy even real? After hearing such things, how was he supposed to feel? “Shit, Haru, you’re so good at messing me up.”

Haruka looks down, masses of his bangs falling over his eyes. "Rin, I..."

"Your mackerel sashimi, sir," The waiter shows up with Haruka’s order, placing it with polished refinement on the table. She smiles cheerfully and bows at them both. “Please enjoy your meal.”

"Right, thank you," Rin reciprocates with a bright smile of his own, and she stalks off hurriedly with a light blush on her cheeks. "You were saying, Haru?"

Shaking his head, Haruka breaks a pair of chopstick with a crack. "...Nothing."


 

Yamazaki Sousuke is currently in heaven.

 

Comiket. A place made of dreams come true for otakus. Everywhere he turns, his teal eyes are greeted with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of doujin booths, lined up perfectly in respective sections segregated by genre. Horror, romance, ecchi, sports, yaoi; any theme he can think of will be somewhere in the list. To his left is the designated cosplay-related area, where people can take photographs of the numerous cosplayers roaming around, on top of meeting some of the more reknowned ones. To his right is the games and action figures section showcasing all the latest figurines released and in the making, handcrafted meticulously and painted to perfection.

When people say that you can use up your whole month's allowance in one day at the Comiket, they're certainly not speaking far from the truth. In fact, if he's got the close estimations correct, Sousuke thinks he's at least spent half of his money pool saved meant for the whole three days just from visiting the booths. And it's not even the end of the first day yet.

The best thing about today is, however, not the amount of limited-print doujin he's managed to get his hands on (having a broad, sturdy build helps a lot in pushing around in the crowd), nor is it the newly-released 1/8 scale Madoka figma in his bag that he literally had to kill for.

 

It's Orca.

 

<

Sousuke has been sending quite a number of fan messages via Tumblr over the period of time he spent stalking liking and reblogging Orca’s photos at every chance he got. Meaning that, they’ve interacted –if answered asks and virtual conversations that don’t involve revelation of real names and any sort of personal details are considered legit interactions, that is- and he’s pretty sure the guy knows of his existence (it’s near impossible to ignore when someone reblogs so many posts of yours in a row, right?). But Sousuke is not hoping for any special treatment, he just wants to meet him and say hi, and possibly just touch those amazing back muscles a little. No homo.

Okay, so maybe he has a little bit of a crush on this Orca guy whom he saw while scrolling through his dashboard the other day. But it's not like he can help it. The guy is just too freaking good at what he does. Sousuke doesn't think he's ever seen someone who can pull off such complicated-looking characters and still appear so damn photogenic and cool. He's never seen him without make-up before, and Orca always chooses characters with either masks or elaborate face paint designs -for all he knows he could have been some random average Japanese man on the streets- but Sousuke is sure that if they were to meet in real life... the man would be hauntingly beautiful.

 

And boy, was he right.

 

Sousuke doesn’t know what character Orca is going to go as today, so he looks out for anyone tall, which is a futile effort, seeing that almost everyone in costumes either wear heels or are naturally tall and practically walking models. He first sees the mop of striking purple hair sticking out in the crowd of people when he passes by the cosplay area, and when he stops to look, his jaw drops.

It’s him. Sousuke knows from the perfectly built body and the flawless poses he’s pulling. Definitely him.

Once the mini photograph session has ended, Sousuke struts over to the man, flashing his most panties (or boxers)-dropping smile. He taps him on the shoulder and waves a little. “Hey,” he says. “It’s me, umm, Doritobod.”

Even from behind the white mask, Sousuke can hear the loud audible gasp.

“I-it’s you,” Orca stutters shakily, backing up a bit, hands going up to cover his mouth. “Y-you!!”

Sousuke chuckles and nods, pointing at himself cheekily. “Yeap. It’s me.”

“B-but, how!” Sousuke hears Orca say. He notices that the man is in reality a tad bit shorter than him, but still taller than most, but that body is still as delicious looking even when clad in Tsukiyama’s horribly colour-clashing suit.

“By train? I can’t drive yet, so it’s the only way I can get here.”

“No, I mean…” Orca stops and looks down at the ground, staring at his shoes. “Nevermind.”

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Sousuke inches closer and puts a hand on the man’s shoulder. Could it be that… he doesn’t like seeing him here?! “Umm, you know, if you want me to leave, I can go…”

“Wait!” Something grabs onto the fabric of his shirt, pulling to prevent him from moving. Sousuke sees the subtlest hint of a blush on the uncovered part of Orca’s cheeks. “I’m happy to see you. I was just, tired.”

Flooded with a sense of relief, Sousuke smiles, sliding his hand down to rest on Orca’s back (smooth, Sousuke, smooth) to steer him away from the crowd. “I think you need some rest. Let’s go back to your booth, shall we? You can sign your stuff for me there, too.”

They made it back safely and Sousuke embarks on his shopping spree, buying almost all the versions of photobooks available as Orca sits behind the counter, attending to the other visitors. It’s unbelievable how gentle the guy is, thanking every single one of his fans with a kind smile.

 

Sousuke has a strange feeling like he’s seen that smile before… but where? And why does his voice sounds familiar as well?

 

Brushing it off as a coincidence, Sousuke steps up when his turn comes around, flipping open the first page of one of the photobooks for Orca to sign. “Write a message for me, will ya? I am your biggest fan after all,” he teases.

“O-okay…”

“And can we take a picture together?”

“Sure…”

In the end, Orca does leave a little message along with a lovely drawing of a cat, and it’s Sousuke who’s left blushing to the root of his hair upon finding his name in the book neatly written in the correct kanji with the message “Thank you. You’re really handsome, by the way (>////<)”. He's thrilled, but Sousuke tries not to think too much into it, because Orca is just another idol to him, a person to be admired from afar, not a potential love interest.

 

 

Love interest? That’s a spot reserved for Tachibana Makoto.

Chapter Text

Rin has always known that he has an unfortunate tendency to fuck things up just when they’re getting good, but this is a really, really painful reminder of just how awry the situation can become.

It wasn’t supposed to go in this direction. It’s intended to be a friendly lunch, him and Haruka at the fantastic sushi bar, bonding over tasty food and similar interests. He didn’t particularly put too high a hope on the ‘bonding’ part, knowing how unresponsive Haruka is like, but Rin wished that he could get at least a tiny bit closer to him; get that connection, so to say. When with Haruka, Rin feels jumpy and anxious, his skin tingling and breathing rapid, but at the same time he feels at ease, comfortable to the extent of opening up about his late father, which he rarely does. It’s contradicting and illogical, but then again, when has anything about his feelings towards Haruka make sense?

Rin could practically sense the moment everything went wrong. One minute he’s rambling excitedly about dreams and passion, the next minute he’s already accidentally mentioning about the whole thing being a freaking date and yeah, that was the point of it going downhill.

He wasn’t supposed to blurt out the stupid thing about kissing. They were already getting cozy with each other, until Rin had to ruin it. Now the awkward silence is back, and it’ll probably not go away any time soon.

Shifting the slice of tamago from his sushi (because yuck, who came up with the idea of sweet egg rolls?), Rin glances at Haruka, who’s currently digging into his mackerel sashimi silently. His crimson eyes follow the delicate movements of the boy’s long, elegant fingers working their way around the chopstick with trained precision. Clearly Haruka’s eaten many, many sashimi before. Dude’s got skills.

Haruka must’ve noticed Rin’s staring because he looks up from his plate to return the gaze. Rin doesn’t even notice when he’d started assuming the pose of a severely lovestruck person -head resting on the top of his hand, leaning against it as he watches Haruka with a disgustingly fond look that could be seen from miles away- and having the guy himself catch him doing that is just beyond embarrassing.

He turns away promptly, pretending to stare out the window while humming a random tune. It’s still so glaringly obvious that he was staring, but hey, at least he tried.

 

Not a second later, his phone vibrates on the table, lights blinking and turning the display on.

Rin battles the urge to groan. Again? Seriously?

 

This time though, it’s a text. It might not be anything urgent, so he decides to let it slip (hello! It’s common courtesy to not be on your mobile devices when you’re hanging out with someone!).

“Read the message, Rin,” Haruka suddenly says, eyes fixed on the still blinking phone, facial expression unreadable. Is he angry? Annoyed? Rin thinks he looks more unbothered than anything, to be honest. “Maybe it’s important.”

With a lead-heavy heart, Rin sighs, picking up the phone and flicking the message open.

 

It’s the FanFest event manager, Himura-san. Upon reading the text, Rin slaps his forehead, running a hand over his face in pure exasperation. “Haru,” Rin says, meeting Haruka’s eyes dead on for the first time since their thwarted attempt of a kiss.  He puts on the best apologetic expression he can muster and forces a grin that contradicts his unwillingness inside. “I’m so, so sorry but I have to go now. They’re looking for me, apparently I’m missing some part of the schedule and I’ve to be there in twenty or I’ll get my ass whipped.”

Haruka scowls. “But you said you weren’t busy.”

“I know, my bad,” Rin replies. Haruka keeps silent then, but Rin quickly notices that the boy has resorted to staring (more like glaring) at the table, lips contorted into a forlorn frown that makes his heart clench. Knowing that he was the one who put that grimace there doesn’t help to chase the guilt away.

Given the choice, Rin never wants to see Haruka sad, ever. He only wants to make Haruka smile happily. Why is that so hard to do? Why is the world sometimes such a shitty place?

“Hey now, don’t make that face…” Rin coaxes sweetly.

“—‘m not making a face...”

“You are! See, your lips are curving downwards just a tiny bit here.” Unconsciously leaning forward, Rin reaches out to place his hand on Haruka’s jaw, running his thumb in soft motion along the faint lines below Haruka’s cheeks. He smirks, still too caught up in the moment to realize what he’s actually doing. “You look like an old man, Haru.”

Face turning pink, Haruka reluctantly slaps away Rin’s hand, mumbling “Shut up.”

 

They make it out of the restaurant within 5 minutes, thanks to Haruka successfully gobbling the rest of his sashimi in record time. Rin insisted on paying for the meal as part of his apology for cutting their lunch short, though in actuality, he just wanted to follow the ‘proper’ dating etiquettes. Haruka wordlessly let him do so, aware that if he declined, they’ll fight over it like two idiots and it wouldn’t do any good, especially when Rin’s in such a rush.

“I’ll make it up to you, okay? After the joint swimming practice?”

Haruka looks questioningly at Rin, not understanding. “Joint… practice?”

“Yeah, the one we’re having this Wednesday.” Rin pushes aside the blinds curtains of the main entrance, holding it there to let Haruka pass through (romantic, isn’t it?!). Noticing the confused face Haruka’s making, he asks. “You didn’t know? Didn’t your captain tell you?”

“Makoto is the captain. But nobody said anything.”

“Well, I guess you heard it first from me, then.” Casually, Rin hooks his arm around Haruka’s shoulder, grinning from ear to ear. “We’re going to swim together, Haru! Isn’t that exciting!”

“Not so much…”

“Oh reaaaally? Hah! I’ll prove you wrong, you’ll see,” Rin says cheekily. “I’ll make you so pumped up, you won’t notice anything around you but me.” Okay, wow Rin. Find your chill.

Casting a glance at the arm wrapping around him, Haruka shrugs. “Whatever.”

Walking a few more steps, the overwhelming heat from their bodies pressed close coupled with the summer sun’s hotness snaps Rin out of his trance, finally taking notice of the time. Only ten minutes until the encore starts, and they’re still a stretch of distance away from the hall. “Damn it, there’s really not much time left,” Rin mutters. An idea pops in his mind and he starts breaking into a wide smile. “Haru, wanna run for it?”

All Haruka manages to give in reply is a small nod before Rin's grabbing his hand, pulling him along as they sprint down the gravelly roads and grassy sidewalks, the scenic backgrounds of Tokyo passing by them in a blurry flash. There’s adrenaline rush in the midst of everything, and he’s breathless alright, but Haruka lets his feet lift with each step Rin takes, lets Rin lead him in the run as he feels his whole body gets lighter and lighter, almost like he’s fading away into the air himself. Rin’s hand is warm, clasping around his in a tight grip, and Haruka can practically hear his heart pounding in his chest, its constant sounds a stark contrast against the whooshing noise of breeze hitting his face.

 

He feels like he’s soaring. Flying. Free, and boundless.

 

Haruka clutches Rin’s hand tighter.

 

They keep on running.

 

It’s all over too soon, though, both of them panting and gasping for air in front of the main hall, hands on knees while trying to catch their breaths. A few of the people around look at them funny, but that’s really nothing surprising.

“That was kinda fun!” Rin exclaims, bubbly laughter coming out in short fragments. It’s been a while since the last time he’d run at such a speed, he’s forgotten how much enjoyment it can bring. Calming down from his high, Rin notices that Haruka is beside him, still breathless and coughing intermittently. “Haru, you’re alright?”

Haruka struggles to speak, hand clutching onto his chest as he tries to breathe normally. He shakes his head and stutters out his complaint. “Too… fast…”

“Sorry I had to drag you like that. But hey, you’re a swimmer, you ought to have more stamina than that! Maybe you should consider working out a bit.” Rin teases. Seeing Haruka’s genuine distress, however, Rin steps closer, feeling concerned. “Hey… You’re okay, Haru. Take a deep breath… yes, that’s it.”

Haruka does as advised and soon starts settling down. “It’s not like I swim to win,” he scoffs. “I swim freely.”

“Yeah, yeah… You and your free.”

Rin doesn’t want this to end, this friendly banter he and Haruka are sharing right now, but the vibrations coming from his phone in his pocket are screaming otherwise. He’ll have to run again to the backstage if he wants to stay alive. Shuffling his feet anxiously, Rin speaks up. “Okay, Haru. I gotta get going. See ya later.”

“Rin, wait!” Without warning, Haruka pulls him to the side and swoops in to plant a kiss on his left cheek, lingering for a second. Rin’s eyes widen in surprise, air knocked out from his lungs and hands frozen limply at his sides. He's unable to breathe, to feel, to comprehend, to even think anything at all, and when Haruka’s lips part from his skin with a barely audible sound, Rin shuts down instantaneously like an old-as-fuck computer running on Windows 98.

Standing rooted on the spot, Rin stares open-mouthed as Haruka dashes away without looking back, a rosy tint spreading over his cheeks.

 

He winds up being late after all.


The sight of a fuming Sousuke tapping his feet impatiently with arms crossed in front of his room’s door isn’t something Rin has anticipated, nor is it something he’s looking forward to. If someone were to walk by in the corridor now, the person would’ve wondered who the hell peed in Sousuke’s drink to make him so annoyed.

Angry Sousuke is a scary Sousuke.

“Dude, seriously? It’s almost 12, you barely made it before the curfew. Where the hell were you?”

Flinching at the loud and brash tone, Rin meekly replies. “I was at the FanFest, doing… stuff.”

“Until so late at night? It ended at 6, you know you can’t bullshit me, Rin,” Sousuke pushes himself off the wall he’s been leaning on, bringing his body to its full height towering over Rin. It only serves to amplify his intimidation. Rin knows that if he spills that he has spent the whole evening daydreaming at the playground near Samezuka Academy and replaying the kiss on cheek Haruka gave him earlier, Sousuke would be even more irritated. Sousuke has a playful side to him like any other teenager, but he’s not one to break the rules; if Haruka indirectly leads Rin into trouble, he will not hesitate to put a stop to it. “Hold up. On the phone earlier you said that you were gonna have your first kiss.”

“Yeah…?” Shit, Rin panics. Sousuke knows.

“And the only person I know that you’d actually want to kiss is Nanase.” Like a private detective placing the pieces together, he stares Rin down and drops the bomb. “He was there, wasn’t he?”

Rin smiles sheepishly, unties his ponytail and eases past Sousuke’s large frame to open the door, not wanting to let Sousuke see the stupid bashful grin he’s sporting. Behind him, he can hear Sousuke chuckle bitterly and mumble ‘unbelievable’. “Let’s go inside,” he says, gesturing for Sousuke to follow. The warden might make his round anytime now. “Nitori went back to his hometown for the weekend, so it’s fine if we talk a bit loud. Which I know is bound to happen once you start your fanboy rants.”

“More like once you start talking about Nanase.”

“Don’t make this about me! You were the one who wanted to talk about that Orca guy.” At the mention of Orca’s name, Sousuke’s teal eyes turn a few shades brighter, anger wiped off his face. Rin rolls his eyes; such an open book, that Sousuke. “Okay, I’m all ears,” Rin states at long last, taking his seat on top of his bed.

Sousuke begins detailing his story, much of which he has told Rin over the phone, albeit less coherently. Like the best friend he is, Rin listens to it all despite coming close to dozing off a couple of times.

“So he knew your name, but you didn’t tell him. And you didn’t put your name in your Tumblr bio either.” Rin hums thoughtfully. “You probably know each other in real life.”

“Exactly! But who can it be? None of my friends watches anime, okay except for you, but you only watch the cheesy shoujo stuff.”

“You got a problem with that?!”

“Ten years of friendship and you’re still doubting me, tsk tsk... Rin, if I do have a problem with you, I wouldn’t be here,” Sousuke points out, and they share a lighthearted giggle. After some time, Sousuke lets out a sigh. “Do you think I can somehow find out who he is?”

Rin shrugs. “Ask him directly, Sou, it’s the fastest way. No need to play Sherlock.”

“Good idea,” Sousuke says. Bumping Rin’s shoulder lightly, he smirks. “You still owe me Tachibana’s number, by the way.”

“Ugh, I told you, I’m not going to ask Haru for Makoto’s number. It’ll be so fucking embarrassing! Why don’t you talk to Haru yourself if you want it so bad.”

“Okay, I’ll do it. Gimme your phone,” Sousuke agrees in a heartbeat, earning a quirked eyebrow from Rin. “What? Figured you wouldn’t disclose your precious crush’s number so easily to anyone, even me, so let me use your phone instead.”

Throwing his arms up in the air, Rin screeches. “But you’ll see our previous conversations!”

“Duh. What’s the big deal?”

“I need my privacy.”

“Why are you so reluctant, you guys started sharing dick pics already?”

“Sousuke!” Rin gasped, horrified.

“No? Not even one? Heh, keeping it PG, huh…” Stealthily, Sousuke tries to snatch the black phone lying on the bed, but luckily (or unluckily for Sou), Rin’s reflex is faster. “Come on Rin, he’s probably sleeping already. I’ll just send him a text, that’s it. When he replies, you can tell me later.”

The power of persuasion a best friend holds over you is amazing, Rin thinks, as he finds himself pondering for a while before relenting to Sousuke’s pleads, handing over his phone in defeat.

“I’m beginning to regret this already,” Rin says, observing Sousuke swiping at his phone, tongue sticking out in concentration. “Don’t peek at my gallery,” he warns.

“Mhmm.”

“Don’t you dare laugh when you see his name.”

“Okay--- HAHAHA IS THAT A HEART, RIN? Oh my god, you saved his name with a heart! You sappy little-- Ouch, that hurts!” Rubbing at his sure-to-bruise arm, Sousuke whines.

“Your own fault for being so shitty, Sou.”

“Sorry,” Sousuke says softly, fingers briskly typing out his message. From the corner of his eyes, he sees Rin plopping face down on the bed -obviously desperate for a rest- and sneers. “By the way, Rin, I think you forgot to upload your Saturday vlog.”

Tensing up, Rin releases a long suffering grumble into the pillows. “You could’ve told me earlier!”

 

Sousuke can hardly contain his chortles as Rin scrambles out of bed, heading towards his laptop.


 

Makoto comes home after Comiket, feeling like the entire planet Earth has just crashed onto his head, its trees’ splinters piercing through his skull, its clouded ozone layers suffocating him to death.

 

Makoto can still recall clearly the way his chest tightened the instant his eyes fell on Sousuke at the event, who introduced himself as ‘doritobod’, his Tumblr-persona fan. The person he’s been talking to for the past few months, who was responsible for all the encouraging and saccharine-sweet fan mails that kept him going with new cosplay projects every other week?

Yeah. That was all Yamazaki freaking Sousuke.

 

Letting the beads of heated water fall onto his body in the shower, Makoto reflects on everything. Why must it be him? 127.3 million people in Japan and it just had to be Sousuke?

 

See, what makes things worse is that Sousuke is not ugly, nor is he an asshole. No. Sousuke is a heartbreakingly handsome young man with the kindest downturned eyes and the warmest smile Makoto has ever seen, and from the moment he’d seen him at the train station while they were both waiting for Rin and Haruka, Makoto knew that Sousuke is just… different. Sousuke’s every word spoken in that deep soothing voice makes him blush redder than a tomato, his insides flip in ways he could never imagine before, his mind hazy and light. To top it all, every time that he’d seen Sousuke (especially today), he’s dressed impeccably like a model straight out of a high-end fashion magazine.

In addition, there’s that little height difference they have going on. Makoto has never met anyone with similar body built as him in his lifetime, and he’d be bluffing if he claims that he hasn’t pictured how comfortable it would be to be wrapped up in those strong arms and being cuddled as the little spoon, for once.

 

Crush or not, Makoto knows he’s screwed.

 

It’ll be too weird for him to just ditch ‘doritobod’ after this, but Makoto’s not sure he can handle talking to him like usual now that he knows it’s Sousuke on the other side of the screen.

One thought leads to another, and when he has to switch the warm water into an ice-cold shower for reasons he’s too flustered to state, Makoto knows it’s time to stop. Hastily, he steps out and changes into casualwear. He comes down for dinner –acting like himself so his family will not notice-, plays with his twin siblings, does his homework, tidies his room… and when it’s sleeping time, he lays in bed.

 

It’s 12 something now. He’s still awake.

 

A call comes through Makoto’s cellphone at 12.15A.M., and to his utter disbelief, it’s Haru.

“Makoto,” Haruka’s voice fills the quiet midnight air. “I’m outside your house now.”

It’s rare for Haruka to be dropping by like this. And he certainly has never done an impromptu visit at such ungodly hours at night. Not wanting to disturb his parents and siblings, Makoto tiptoes soundlessly down the stairs to open the front door, letting Haruka in.

“So… how did the meet-up go?” Makoto asks once they’re in his room, Haruka sipping on the warm glass of milk he managed to smuggle out the kitchen sneakily (because let's face it, he is a mother hen and he just feels obligated to take care of people the best way he can).

“Okay,” Haruka replies nonchalantly. “We went out for lunch.”

“That’s really great!” Makoto cheers delightfully, clapping his hands once in glee. His happiness is interrupted by a dark aura coming from his friend, though, and even without telepathy, Makoto can literally feel Haruka’s upset disseminating into the air. “Are you okay, Haru? You look pretty off, to be honest.”

Haruka shifts in his place on the bed, knees drawn up to his chest. “Makoto. You didn’t tell me about the joint practice.”

“Huh? Oh! The one with Samezuka Academy.” Damn it, Makoto knew hiding it from Haru is a bad decision! “Yeah, well… Nagisa told me not to, said it’ll be a surprise for you.”

“I don’t like surprises. They can be troublesome.”

Makoto’s about to apologize when his subconscious hearing catches onto bits and pieces of Haruka’s thoughts, all of which is a strange blend of vexation and confusion. He hears ‘idiot Rin’ somewhere in the lines and immediately understands where all of this is coming from.

“You’re pissed about something else. I can tell.”

“I’m not,” Haruka retorts.

“It’s alright, if you don’t want to talk about it,” Makoto smiles reassuringly. “Want to play video games?”

Haruka looks up at him from the edge of the mug, ocean blue orbs glinting. “The twins?”

“Sleeping in their room. They had a field trip to the Planetarium today, poor things, they were exhausted.”

“Hmmm,” Haruka slowly sits upright and starts reaching for the game controllers by the bedside and the stack of game boxes to choose from. Meanwhile, Makoto sets up the console and lowers down the volume before any music can fire up from the speakers. “By the way, Makoto, Sousuke asked me for your number.”

“W-what?!” Makoto splutters, turning sharply to look at Haruka. “Did he s-say anything?”

“He wanted to be ‘friends’with you. I think he’s lying.”

Makoto’s face lights up like the Christmas tree, expression hopeful and excited. “Okaaaay, what did you do, then?”

“I said no, of course. He looks suspicious. Even if he’s Rin’s friend.” Haruka sees the way Makoto’s shoulder sags, and frowns. “Why, you wanted me to?”

“Ummm, I… I wouldn’t mind, you know.” Makoto turns his attention back to the game console, pouting a little. Haruka did the right thing, but sometimes the right thing is not the thing that he wants. “He just seems like a good guy. I think it’ll be nice to make new friends once in a while. And he swims too! We can… e-exchange tips, or something.”

Absentmindedly, Makoto takes the CD that Haruka has chosen and plugs it into the PS3 drive, watching it swallow the disc effortlessly. He fiddles with the wires of the controller, not noticing the other occupant of the room typing away at his cellphone.

Moments later, Haruka slides down to sit on the carpet next to Makoto, taking his own controller in his hands. “I texted him,” he says. “Sent him your number.”

 

Makoto feels his heart lurch to his throat. Did Haruka really just…?

 

Oh my god,” Makoto breathes, feeling butterflies erupting in his stomach. This can’t be real. Sousuke has his number. What the actual heck.

 

Almost perfectly on cue, his lime green cellphone sitting nicely on top of the table vibrates, and along with that comes the single chime he’s set as his message tone.

Makoto drops the controller so fast, it’s probably got some cracks on the sides. He grabs the phone in his cold, sweaty palms and flips it open with his thumb.

 

New Messages.

 

With a loud squeak, Makoto climbs back onto the bed and grabs whatever pillows he can find, pressing them onto his face to muffle the inhuman sounds he’s probably making. His face is splitting in two from how hard he is beaming, and gosh, hasn’t this day taken such a drastic detour? He types a quick reply, waits for the response, gets a mini heart attack, types another one again, and the cycle repeats on and on.

On the floor, Haruka comes to a realization that he’s on his own tonight and silently selects the 1-player mode of his favourite ‘Let’s Go! Deep Sea Creatures’ game, choosing Northern Stoplight Loosejaw-kun as his playable character.

 

Another squeal erupts from where Makoto's curled into a ball of human, pillows and comforter, and Haruka sighs. Might as well enjoy the game while he still can.

Chapter Text

Staying up after a long day is not fun.

Rin has never been more thankful that tomorrow is Sunday. At the rate he’s going now, there is no freaking way he can wake up early for class, not if he plans to upload the video as soon as possible. At some point between filming himself at nearly 1 in the morning, cropping the clips and editing the thumbnail, Rin thinks of calling it quits. Just retreat to bed and curl in to sleep; what difference will missing a vlog make, anyway? But then he remembers the FanFest; all those people supporting him, loyally waiting for him to share bits and pieces of his life with them. And he remembers Haru, who apparently has watched every single one of his videos a few times each, including the meaningless ones. It’s a lie if he says it doesn’t flatter him to know that.

Rubbing his sore eyes wearily, Rin heaves a sigh that falls silent in the dark of the night. Gosh… Haru. Just the thought of that guy is making Rin’s skin tingle. In a good way, probably.

Apparently his mind loves giving him a hellish life, choosing to reenact the scene of the unforeseen peck on the cheek at that exact moment, and he doesn’t want to admit it but he’s having a pretty jolly time replaying those images in his head, until—

“Rin,” Sousuke’s voice hisses in the background. Rin hears it of course -there’s barely any distance from where he’s sat at the table facing the laptop to where Sousuke’s sprawled on his bed, hogging all the pillows and whatever space is available- but he pretends not to. Growing impatient, Sousuke calls out a little louder. “Rin!”

“For god’s sake, what do you want, Sousuke?! In case you haven’t noticed, I’m working on a video right now.”

Sousuke inches closer to him, smug grin never leaving his face. “It’s happening,” he whispers, excitement evident in his voice. “It’s fucking happening.”

Skeptical but a tad bit curious, Rin turns around fully and crosses his arms. This better be good. He’s wasting even more precious sleep time. “What is?”

“The greatest, most epic love story of all time,” Sousuke replies, tossing his mobile phone into Rin’s unsuspecting hands. It’s midnight and his overworked eyesight is as clear as a fogged windshield on a humid day, but luckily, his quick reflexes allow him to catch it in time.

 

When he sees what’s on the screen, Rin gasps.

 

No. Way,” he says, shaking his head slowly in sheer disbelief and doing a double take at the messages lined up, all of which are from the one and only Makoto. He notices the blushing emojis in the conversation and his eyes grow even wider.

Turns out that Sousuke did use his horrendous pick-up lines. But that’s not the worst part of this story. The worst part is that Makoto actually fell for them.

This is impossible. How can Sousuke go from shamelessly flirting to nailing this in a single night, when he can’t even keep eye contact with Haru for more than 5 seconds without getting all flustered? It’s not fair. “No way.”

“Yes way, Rin. Yes all the way.” Sousuke’s still beaming like the sun, obviously pleased with himself. “Guess I’ll have a legit excuse to give when someone asks me to follow them to those stupid mixer parties in the future.”

Rin scorns, resisting the urge to hurl the damn phone out the window. “What, that you have a boyfriend?”

“Well… I was thinking more along the lines of a ‘lover’, or a ‘soulmate’…”

Something stirs in Rin at the mention of those words. It bubbles to the surface and messes with his mind, and Rin thinks, no, he knows, that it’s envy. Sousuke can get a girlfriend or a boyfriend, any casual relationship, anytime and Rin will be overjoyed for his friend. But lover and soulmate… Those are the deep stuff. Those are things that involve lots of feelings, bonds, trust and all the other shit that makes him emotional -essentially what his dreams are made of (shut up, it’s totally normal to dream of finding a so-called soulmate)- and the thought of Sousuke finding The One before he does just irks him a little.

Okay, fine. A lot.

“Don’t get cocky, Sou,” he grumbles, shoving the phone back to Sousuke. Rin huffs and shifts his attention to the unfinished video, hoping it would serve as a decent distraction. “You don’t even know if he likes you. Or better still, if he’s even into guys.”

“Good point of yours. But if he’s not, it’ll be a waste for such a perfect booty,” Sousuke jokes lightheartedly, though he totally meant what he said. It’s supposed to be funny, butt jokes are always hilarious as hell, so when Rin doesn’t laugh and instead begins smashing the keyboard even louder and clicking on the mouse with unnecessary force, Sousuke senses something’s wrong. Putting two and two together, he deduces that Rin is just being salty because he’s jealous.

Now here’s where normal friends would apologize, coax and give sweet reassurances. Sousuke isn’t a normal friend, however, he’s ‘the bestest friend in the whole world’, so naturally, he provokes. Because that’s what friends are for, right?

 

“You’re just raining on my parade because you’re too much of a chicken to admit that you like Nanase.”

 

The result is instantaneous. Rin goes rigid in his seat, shoulders tensing. His hands previously dancing on the keyboard freeze. There’s a short-lived period of silence that’s cold, so cold it almost makes Sousuke worry that he’s said something he’d regret.

He holds his breath, waiting for the moment that Rin would snap and lash at him, but it never comes.

 

Rin inhales deeply. Exhales. Inhales. Exhales.

God, Sousuke is really the type of friend you can sometimes love and hate at the same time. Someone you want to smother with a bear hug then punch the living daylights out a moment later. Rin can’t decide if Sousuke is a blessing or a curse.

“Since you have so much free time to the point of talking shit about me,” Rin grits out, internally groaning when he hears the message tone and sees Sousuke grinning at his phone again. Ugh, this gloating dimwit. “Why not help me out? I’m freaking dying here. I swear I’m starting to see blue dots dancing on the screen.”

Sousuke wags his finger at Rin disapprovingly. “Nuh uh, Rin. We’ve got our rules, remember? I’m in charge of the main vids, you do the vlogs. From the filming down to the editing, special effects and audio mixing.”

It’s the unwritten agreement that they had when he first started branching out into vlogging. The first time Rin discovered that there’s such a thing as holding a Guinness World record for uploading the most number of consecutive vlogs, he couldn’t believe it. It’d take a huge amount of dedication to do that, and he knew he couldn’t be that active, but it still drove him to try vlogging. The idea of just talking and sharing thoughts and stuff was… appealing, somehow. After a while though, Rin found it quite a struggle to keep the contents coming regularly, what with school and swimming practices taking up much of his time. The whole dividing thing had been Sousuke’s idea, the reasoning being that it’s more efficient. He even volunteered to take on the more taxing task of handling the main vids, so in a way Rin’s been getting the long end of the stick in this one.

Still… he’s tired. Tired and desperate for sleep. He’s also confused about that little shit Haruka, who decided that kiss-and-run is the way to go. There’s a lot of things on his plate, so he has the right to sulk and pout this time, okay.

“Heyyyy,” Sousuke concedes, placing a gentle hand on top of Rin’s head and tousles the mop of hair to cheer him up. “I’m sure things will work out somehow, okay? You’re the Matsuoka Rin. Everyone loves you.”

 

Rin sighs. For once, he kinda wishes that Sousuke is right.


 

After seven straight solo wins, a broken high-score record and close to two hours of constantly having to listen to Makoto’s dying killer whale sounds later, Haruka stops the game. Wordlessly, he unplugs the controllers and gets up to leave, but not without Makoto noticing.

“Haru?” Makoto looks up from his phone (finally!), looking mildly confused. “You’re not sleeping over tonight?”

Haruka’s blue eyes dart from Makoto’s face to the phone glued in his hands. A sleepover was the original plan, but he kind of changed his mind in the end. He’s drained, maybe a tiny bit lonely as well, and staying over seems to defeat its purpose. He doubts he can get much sleep here. A distracted Makoto is not the kind of company he’s seeking for either.

“It’s okay,” Haruka says, giving a little wave over his shoulder. “Maybe some other time.”

Catching the hint, Makoto is hit by a sudden realization that he had, in fact, just ignored his childhood friend for two whole hours. Two hours! Blanching, he scrambles off the bed, barely manages to grab a hold on Haruka’s bag before he’s out the door.

“Ahhhh, I’m so, so sorry Haru!” He cries out, clapping his hands together in an apologetic gesture. “You came all the way here and I spent the whole time on my phone, I’m sorry!!”

Makoto’s trembling like he always does when he feels bad for something he’d done (remember the hijacking Haruka’s YouTube account incident?), ready to keel over from all the guilt, and Haruka can’t stop the amused smile. It’s kinda nostalgic; he can recall having witnessed Makoto apologizing to him for even the smallest insignificant things. Clearly the guy hasn’t changed one bit, still the selfless, sincerely kind soul from years ago.

“It’s fine, I don’t mind,” Haruka says. “I beat your high score, by the way.”

Makoto still feels guilty, but hearing that, he lightens up and tells that he’s not even surprised -only Haruka has ever completed the whole deep sea journey to unlock the hard mode, and the high-score has always been his in the first place.


 

When Haruka gets home, his eyes automatically gravitate towards the laptop on the table. Rin did not upload his vlog today –Haruka would know since he’s been refreshing the SharkBoiUnleashed page every other minute before storming off to Makoto’s house in vexation- and yet something tells him to take one last look for the night.

Following his instincts, Haruka reloads the web page anxiously, only to see a new video uploaded 20 minutes ago with 301+ views and a thumbnail of a visibly exhausted Rin winking at the camera. As if on autopilot, his hand moves to click on the video despite his heavy eyelids threatening to close.

 

Screw sleep. Rin ranks way higher in terms of priority.

 

“Hello there!” Rin’s face fills the screen, his charming teethy smile in place. Haruka notices that he’s wearing black and white polka dot pajamas, hair messy from a whole day’s worth. Rin must’ve gone straight to bed after uploading this. How cute. “I guess you must be wondering why on earth am I uploading this so late. It’s technically a Sunday already! Well, lots of things happened today and I miiiight have forgotten to vlog at the FanFest just now.”

Rin makes a show of cringing a bit when the sounds of people booing and yelling filter in. Then, comes a picture of a hammer flying out of nowhere, ‘hitting’ him on the side of his head and knocking him flat, falling out of the shot. Haruka breaks into a smile at the endearing act. It’s one of the many reasons why Rin is such a likeable persona on the Internet; his sense of humor makes it almost impossible to resist a smile, even for someone as reserved as Haruka.

“I know, I know… How could I, right?! I’m sorry! I’ll make it up by introducing you guys to my swimming team mates or something, quite a number of you have requested that I include them in one of my videos. If I recall correctly, Nitori was accidentally in one of my vids in the early days, he was changing clothes in the background and I think a lot of you went crazy in the comments. Sheeeshhh, keep us out of your shota fetish, will ya?”

Haruka scowls, recalling the silver-haired kid. That boy’s so lucky to have been Rin’s roommate; sharing a bed (technically it’s a bunk bed, but still), the same breathing space, getting the chance to see Rin fresh out from the shower, to admire his adorable sleepy face every morning.

 

What Haruka would give to have that.

 

“How was your day?” Rin asks to the camera. “Mine was rather… interesting. I’m gonna leave it at that.”

Rin goes on to talk about some of the gifts he’d received from his fans and his overall experience as a first-timer at the convention. He also gets on the topic of the Q&A session and requests for any link to the ‘asking your crush out’ part, saying that he wants to watch the crowning moment of embarrassment.

(Haruka finds the link in one of the comments. He’s at first worried that the original uploader would take it down sometime in the future, but it’s no longer a concern now that he has the video in his folder, courtesy of this amazing programme Rei and Nagisa introduced to him called YouTube Downloader.)

“So yeah, if you haven’t noticed, I’m running out of things to say… I’m super sleepy and it’s all Sousuke’s fault for not reminding me to record this earlier,” Rin says, rubbing his half-lidded eyes with his fists, which reminds Haruka a lot of the tiny white kitten Makoto always feeds. “Let’s see… After that, I went out for lunch with someone and umm—“ Suddenly, Rin’s cheeks starts turning a bright hue of red. His eyes widen, like he’s just remembered something embarrassing, and he’s biting his bottom lip, avoiding direct eye contact with the camera. With a blushing face like that, he looks vulnerable -and if it is even possible- a thousand times more tantalizing than usual. Haruka tries hard not to think about stroking that smooth, lovely skin, feeling Rin flinch under his touch, fresh stream of tears running down his beautiful fa—

 

Alright, he totally just thought of that. Where did that come from?

 

“You know what, I think I’m getting really really tired, so… time for bed! Good night everyone, love you!”

The video ends abruptly. Instead of replaying it like usual, Haruka slams the laptop shut and scrambles into bed, wrapping the covers tight around his feverish body.

 

It takes him much tossing and turning to kick the images out of his head and get some shut-eye, but when he eventually does, he dreams of soft sakura petals, delicately falling and blown off by the wind.


 

Haruka hasn’t heard anything from Rin for three whole days now.

It’s stupid, getting worked up and restless over this when he has practically lived 16 years of his life never knowing a boy by the name of Matsuoka Rin. And even when he learnt of the name from an encounter by chance with the waterfall video, he still survived just fine for those few months, admiring Rin from far without any form of two-way interaction. But Rin is… well, to put it simply, like a drug. He is a bottomless void that Haruka has fallen into, an endless patch of quick-sand that pulls him under, further and deeper until he’s rendered breathless.

 

Breathless, yet wanting more.

 


Staring at the glistening surface of the pool, Haruka sighs, leaning back on the wall and resting his weight onto it. He’s early for club activities again. Makoto did not tag along, he had been called by Amakata-sensei to help out with some documenting and form-filling they had to do for the club, while the deadly duo are held up by unfinished homework that needs to be handed in by today. Actually, it’s just Nagisa (unsurprisingly) but Rei opted to stick around because ‘love stays strong through thick and thin’ and he ‘wants to emanate positive motivational energy’, or something weird and awkwardly nerdy like that. Haruka’s not sure of the exact words; Rei is quite difficult to understand over the phone, he dramatizes too much.

Being the first at the pool means he’ll have the whole place to himself, which is something he looks forward to everyday. It’s the main thing that motivates him to pull out from the bathtub every morning to go to school, because what’s better than a tub of cool, refreshing water? A bigger tub of water.

But today… Today, Haruka just feels out of it. The water is there, right there in front of him, calling out for him like metal does to magnet, but Haruka’s mind is gravitating towards a stronger force: Rin.

“Haruka-senpai!”

Haruka almost jumps out of his skin from the sheer loudness of the voice. Startled, he sharply turns around and sees Gou smiling cheekily.

“Gou?” Haruka frowns, not returning the little wave Gou is giving. “Why are you here?”

“Eh, you didn’t know? Starting from today I’m the swimming team’s manager,” Taking it upon herself to sit next to Haruka, Gou plops down swiftly and proceeds to explain. “Amakata-sensei said she’ll be needing assistance in the logistics stuff, so I volunteered to help out. It will benefit the club as well if we have a more structured training regimen, which is what I am planning to do…” Gou pauses, noticing that Haruka is wearing a blank expression, eyes transfixed on the ground. “Haruka-senpai, are you listening?”

“Huh?” Haruka jolts. The clouds of thoughts in his head vanish with a loud poof, and that’s when he realizes that he’s been spacing out. Gou appears positively irritated, judging from her pout. “Oh, sorry I was… Umm. Thinking.”

Gou gives him a sympathetic look and shakes her head, long maroon tresses flowing along with the movements. “You’re just like big bro nowadays,” she says. “Always distracted by other things.”

“Rin is?”

Haruka feels his face warm up when he realizes that he’s accidentally blurted that out rather loudly. He tries to ignore the way Gou is smiling knowingly at him. Is it really too obvious that his interest is piqued whenever Rin is mentioned? Maybe he has to tone it down a little.

“Yeah, he came home the other day,” Gou replies, grinning not unlike Nagisa when he’s in his teasing mode. “Mom cooked him his favourite charbroiled beef steak and he only ate half of it, half! And he was staring at his phone like it’s a ticking time bomb. Kept checking it even when we were talking, so Mom made him put it away. Speaking of which, Haruka-senpai, we’ll be having a joint practice tomorrow, right? How’re the preps going?”

“I don’t do preparations,” Haruka replies bluntly. “I swim free.”

All of a sudden, his phone buzzes in his bag. With it comes the tinkling message tone that he hopes is too soft for Gou to hear. That way he won’t have to answer any more unnecessary questions from her, and he can sneak out to check the message without her suspecting anything.

No such luck for Haruka.

“Is that my brother?” Gou asks, mischievously scooting over and breaching his personal space. Seriously, what is with the Matsuokas and their lack of space awareness?

“None of your business,” Haruka says, shifting through items in his bag to take the cellphone out. He quickly stands up and make his way to the fence, heart pounding fast, hope and anticipation coursing through his body. He can check the message later, of course, but what if it’s from Rin? Roughly twenty people know Haruka’s number, and even that’s a generous figure. He doesn’t exchange messages regularly with any of them, so really, the chances of it being Rin is pretty damn high.

A tiny purple butterfly flutters around nearby and lands on his hand. How appropriate, Haruka thinks, because it feels like there’s a thousand more in his stomach.

 

He flips the phone open. Reads the sender’s name.

 

Haruka feels his heart lurches in its spot.

 

His face must’ve been a dead giveaway, because seconds later, Gou yells from where she’s still seated. “Heeeeyyy, I gave you that number, the least you could do is share updates with me. Tell him I said hi!”

Hastily, Haruka types a reply, not wanting Rin to think that he’s ignoring him. Rin is talking about the joint practice again, asking if he’s ready for tomorrow, and from the looks of it, the boy is super pumped up for it.

“SORRY WE’RE LATE, HARU-CHAN!” Nagisa comes bursting in from the door like a tornado, loud as ever. In a moment of panic, Haruka instantly attempts to pocket his phone to hide it from the boys’ view, completely forgetting that he’s in his snugly fitting, most definitely pocket-less swimming trunks.

The phone slips from his hand and goes crashing on the ground. The clattering noise causes everyone to wince.

It slides on the slippery floor and lands merely a feet away from the edge of the pool.

 

Rei and Makoto stare at the scene petrified, as Haruka slowly bends down to pick the blue phone up, dark bangs falling over his face and covering his eyes. Even Gou, who was the one sitting closest to him, puts on a nervous smile and backs away, intimidated by the dark, obscure aura coming from the black-haired boy.

 

 

Nagisa has the gall to mutter a faint “oops”.

Chapter Text

His phone isn’t broken. At least, it appears to be fine from the outside.

 

The first thing Haruka does after he picks it up is to ask Makoto to send a message to him. It’s the biggest, if not the only concern he has. Cracked screen? He can live with that. Scratches on the camera lens? No problem, he never uses it anyway. Even with missing keypad buttons, he’ll manage to type somehow. But if he’s not able to send or receive any texts, Haruka is going to be pissed. As pissed as a Nanase Haruka can possibly be, that is.

“Haru, did you get it? I sent something,” Makoto asks.

Haruka looks down at his phone. No notifications. He frowns, still unsatisfied. “Try calling me,” he says. Makoto does as told, yet there’s no ringtone, no vibrations or notification. Nothing at all.

Damn it.

Haruka never thought the day would come when he’d feel sad over a broken piece of technology, but here he is, eyes fixed in a dull stare, dread hanging heavily in his chest. The phone’s replaceable, he can go to town with Makoto later this week and just grab a new one from the shelves; there’s really no need to be so upset. Some people even change cellphones like they change clothes. But he was just talking to Rin a few minutes ago, and having that snatched away abruptly is kinda hard to swallow.

Feeling dejected, Haruka staggers to his bag and throws the phone inside. It goes in swiftly with a faint ‘fwump’, settling among his change of clothes, pencil box and sketchbooks. It probably belongs in a museum now, Haruka thinks. Or he can still keep it, just to read the previous conversations he shared with Rin.

Lost in his musings, he walks past the shell-shocked boys and dives into the water without a word.

Makoto (and Rei, it’s mostly Rei actually) gives Nagisa the scolding of his life after that unfortunate incident, reminding him of the importance of moderation, which was a concept that he has no grasp on whatsoever. Yes, sometimes a bit of enthusiasm brings no harm, but too much of it and at an inappropriate time can have detrimental effects. Regretting his carelessness, Nagisa apologises profusely afterwards, not wanting his “dearest Haru-chan” to continue giving him the cold shoulder. Haruka only nods. He isn’t even mad anymore. He’s just… disheartened.

“Nevermind. Not a big deal,” he says.

 

But from the way his strokes seem slower, his movements heavier and lacking of the fluidity they always have, everyone agrees that yeah, it probably is a big deal.


Despite all that, the joint practice is still on. It’s been decided that the Iwatobi team will be visiting Samezuka instead of the other way round because of obvious reasons, the main one being the limited capacity of Iwatobi’s training pool. It’s already a mystery as to why a school so popular like Samezuka would ever want to propose to conduct a joint swimming practice with Iwatobi, but strangeness aside, it was a golden opportunity that they simply can’t miss.

“Do your best, boys!” Amakata-sensei cheers on before they depart that morning. “Maikaru Feruppusu once said: Don’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the further you get.

Everyone (minus Haruka) offers a strained smile. By now, they’re used to their beloved club advisor’s well-intentioned though quirky motivational methods, but the quotes are usually from famous people, not someone whose name sounds like a string of gibberish. “Maika who?” Rei, ever the curious one can’t help but ask.

Amakata-sensei smiles sweetly at him. “Why, of course it’s Maikaru Feruppusu, you know, the American Olympic gold medalist?”

Rei’s violet eyes gleam predatorily as he senses an opening. An opportunity. He knows exactly who she’s referring to, the guy is the most decorated Olympian of all time after all, and he has come across that name thousands of times in all those books he’s read about mastering the perfect butterfly stroke techniques. It’s just a matter of pronunciation that’s made it sound so foreign.

“Sensei,” Rei clears his throat, adjusting the frames of his red-rimmed glasses unsubtly. The others look ready to scram now; they know that the gesture means that Rei is entering his know-it-all mode. Inside his mind, the intelligent, perfectionist voice is yelling at him to at least attempt to point out Amakata-sensei’s mistake, but his common sense is telling him to keep it to himself lest he wants to live a testicle-less life (you do not want to piss her off, this they’ve learnt after the frog-in-freezer prank).

Sadly, when it comes to these things, his mouth acts faster. “I think you meant Michael Phelps?” He says, in what he thinks is the best American accent he can muster.

 

It sounded better in his head, apparently.

 

“Oh shut it, Rei-chan, you still sounded Japanese anyway!” Nagisa cackles, much to the horror of his boyfriend, and is joined by the rest of the pack who then manage to drag him away before any bloodbath can happen.


Samezuka Academy is, to put it simply, legendary.

There is just something about the school that sends chills down people’s spines, something undefinable makes the finest hairs on their skin stand and their hearts leap to their throats at the mere mention of its name. Perhaps it’s the long-standing list of national champions the school has been producing for the last decade, or maybe it’s the chains of unbroken time records for a lot of events that they still hold. Either way, the fact remains that Samezuka Academy is a prestigious institution, influential in every sense of the word, and virtually anyone who had been to a swimming tournament in the country would know the superior and powerful aura they exude when the team's united cheers and chants resounded.

 

And Haruka can’t help the swell of admiration knowing that Rin goes to school here. Sousuke too, but that’s beside the point.

 

For one, the school compound itself is freaking huge. When they walk through the front gates clad in white-and-blue Iwatobi jerseys, they can still blend in with the sea of pristine white uniforms the normal students are wearing, but the moment they step into the pool complex (a separate building with top-class strength and endurance training facilities and an enormous Olympic-sized pool, nothing like the once forsaken, weed and moss infested one they had in Iwatobi) the astounding contrast between their whites and Samezuka’s midnight black jerseys is too glaring to ignore.

No one ever turns up late for practice in Samezuka, so it’s only right that almost everyone in the place turns to look at them once they push the doors open.

“Umm, hi?” Makoto says meekly, flashing an awkward smile. “We are from Iwatobi High and we’re here for the swimming practice… Is Captain Mikoshiba around?”

Standing there, their little party of five seems like a joke as compared to the sheer amount of students flooding the place. There are boys everywhere –sprinting in the water, stretching beside the pool, getting ready on the platforms- just about any direction they turn, their vision is filled with members of Samezuka's swim club. Some of the boys begin whispering among themselves, looking at the five in apparent scrutiny, a few of the perverted ones have their leering eyes fixated on Gou (it is an all-boys boarding school after all) while others return to whatever it was that they were doing.

Makoto swears he can hear the crows and crickets at the sheer awkwardness of it all. Luckily, it doesn’t last long enough for any of them to dig a hole and bury themselves from the embarrassment.

“Welcome!” A deep voice greets them. They all turn and see the buff, tanned lad with a rather shocking mop of blaring red hair. Haruka decides right then that he very much prefers Rin’s shade of red than this one. “I’m Mikoshiba Seijuurou, pleased to meet you. You must be Captain Tachibana?”


When his alarm clock blasted at 7AM sharp with a flashing note of ‘Joint Practice with Haru ❤ today’, Rin thought that no, he can’t fucking do this.

If Japanese people were to have a middle name, Rin’s sure that his would be ‘Confidence’ or something along that line. That’s just how much faith he has in his own capabilities. Of course, he’s had his fair share of insecurities and self-doubt –the nightmare years in Australia being a prime example-, but he’s far past all that now. He’s got a sense of direction, knows that he has what it takes to chase after what he wants.

 

With Haruka though, it’s a different story altogether.

 

Rin turns into a bumbling, stuttering mess when Haruka is around; mouth going dry, mind blanking out, heart pounding at the speed it can usually only reach when he’s in the middle of a heated race with a precious gold medal at stake. In front of Haru, he starts to say things he’s not supposed to say, stare without even realizing it and blush furiously when his imagination conjures interesting scenarios. It’s been like this from day one, from that first time Rin saw the comments from ‘mackerelisgood’ on his channel and stupidly assumed that Nanase Haruka was a freaking girl.

On that note, Rin sometimes still wonders if the two are in fact the same person. Haruka is nothinglike the charming, romantic flirt seen from the comments. He’s a lot less… expressive.

The thing is, his so-called ‘lovestruck symptoms’ –as Sousuke has kindly put it- have been getting progressively worse since then, because now that he admits that he may be harboring a teeny tiny crush on Haruka (imagine Sousuke’s smug face when he told him), he’s becoming hyperaware of his actions. It doesn’t help that the last time they saw each other, Haruka had kissed him on the cheek and dashed off without any explanation.

Rin is not an airhead, he knows how to read the atmosphere. The boundaries between ‘just-friends’ and ‘something more’. And he damn well knows that normal friends don’t give gentle kisses like that. Heck, Sousuke would punch him in the dick if he ever attempts to.

I don’t get him. Does he like me or what? Should I hope? Rin leans against his locker in the changing room and groans. The clanking of the lock is a lot less loud compared to the thoughts echoing in his head. Practice is starting again in ten, and knowing that Haruka is going to be there isn’t making this any easier. God, this is so frustrating.

Suddenly, there’s a commotion outside, then the pitter-patter of hurried footsteps coming towards the room. Sousuke comes running through the door a few seconds later.

“Rin, come on out, they’re he—whoa!” Sousuke exclaims. “Dude, what’s up with that face? You look like you haven’t slept for days!”

Opening his eyes, Rin offers a tired smile, although he knows that his best friend will not let this slip easily. “Had some things on my mind, I’m fine… You were saying?”

“Oh, the Iwatobi guys are here,” Sousuke says. Rin’s heart jumps. “I asked Shouta to tell me when they’ve arrived so we could, you know, make a grand entrance or something. It’ll be cooler that way, don’t you think? First impressions and all that.”

“Sorry to burst your bubble, Sou, but technically, Makoto’s first impression of you was a tall, creepy guy in fancy UNIQLO jacket, lurking around at the train station.”

“Whom he still said hello to,” Sousuke points out smugly. “You heard that right, he was the one who approached me. You and Nanase were taking so long to get off the train, he probably got bored and needed someone to talk to. Anyway, I’m talking about this, Rin.” Gesturing downwards, Sousuke grins knowingly. “Us in our swimming trunks. In our natural habitat, doing our thing.”

The evident eagerness his usually calm and collected friend is showing coaxes amused chuckles out of Rin. “You’re making us sound like wild animals on Natural Geographic!”

“Aren’t we all, though? Samezuka swimmers are sharks reincarnate, born to swim like a champion.”

“Yeah, yeah…” Rin’s laughter dwindles down as the sounds of his team mates cheering outside filters into the room through the slight opening of the door. Taking a deep breath, Rin stands up, hands clenched into determined fists at his sides. Okay Rin. Don’t mess this up. “Let’s go.”


“So here’s how it’s gonna run,” Mikoshiba begins once they’re done with introductions, his tone authoritative and confident, befitting of a powerhouse team’s captain. The boys are gathered around him as he delivers the plan and instructions. Haruka notices Makoto fidgeting, eyes fleeting back and forth between Mikoshiba and scanning the area, obviously searching for that guy. “We’ll have a time trials session first, four lanes go at once, one lane for each stroke. And then when that’s done, we’ll compare the times. The best eight will race to see who’s the fastest, of course again we’ll segregate based on the styles to make it fair.” He turns to the Iwatobi team. “How’s that? Sounds good?”

Nagisa and Gou both give a thumbs-up, while Rei and Haruka nod affirmatively. I don’t care, I just want to swim. Makoto smiles and replies, “Perfect.”

The circle disperses quickly to form lines behind the platforms, but Mikoshiba still hasn’t budged. Instead, he beams at them and elatedly clasps Gou’s hands in his much larger ones, golden eyes glowing with delight. Haruka swears he can see a tail growing out from the guy’s back, the previous ‘strict captain’ image all but destroyed and substituted with a big infatuated puppy. “So Gou-kun, if I win, will you go out on a date with m--“

 

A loud cough interrupts them.

 

"Ah, Oniichan!"

“Sorry to disturb,” Rin drawls the word out from between his teeth in apparent irritation, glaring daggers at the hands around his little sister's. The expression on Mikoshiba’s face is priceless as he lets go of his grip on Gou like he’s just touched a scalding hot kettle. “Captain. I need to talk to you.”

"Ahahahaha!! Okay guys, move along! We'll begin in 5!"

Letting out a pained awkward laugh, he follows Rin to the side. Curious, Haruka stays even when the others make their way to respective lanes, attempting to make it less obvious by adjusting his swimming cap and goggles. He hears Rin saying something about swimming free and Mikoshiba answering with ‘but you’re best at butterfly!’, and the pair engage in a heated discussion for a while before coming to an agreement.

 

Haruka doesn’t even have time to react when Rin saunters over to him, slinging an arm over his stiff shoulder in one swift motion. Crap.

“Haruuuu,” he says in a teasing lilt. “You ready for this?”

Haruka scoffs, frown successfully masking his currently on-fire nerves. “You asked me the same thing yesterday. My answer hasn’t changed.”

Rin tightens his hold and presses his body -his oh so toned and impeccably defined body- closer, and Haruka’s finding it harder and harder to breathe with each passing second. The arm around his shoulder is warm, its weight inexplicably assuring and suffocating all at the same time. “I’ll have to change it for you then, huh,” Rin leans in, puffs of breath barely breezing across Haruka’s cheeks. “Gonna fire you up, make you swim for your life out there.”

“We’ll see,” Haruka says, his face burning. Shit, Rin sounded hot. This is bad. He needs to get away.

“Timekeepers, ready?” He hears Mikoshiba yells from the pool. Haruka takes it as cue for him to shrug Rin off, rushing towards the others. Howver, a quick glance back to Rin reveals that the boy is growing red as well, clearly only realizing just how near they were before.

“Swimmers, ready? Take your mark… Go!”

Splashes of water echo throughout the complex as the first batch of swimmers take the plunge, racing against time to the other end. Thunderous claps and cheers erupt right after, and Nagisa is screaming his heart out (“Come on Mako-chaaaan! You can do it! Break the record, smash 'em all!”) at Makoto in the backstroke lane. Haruka watches Makoto propel his body forward with each strong stroke, rapidly overtaking the other three swimmers in adjacent lanes and seizing the obvious lead. He makes the turn before they can even reach the 50m mark, and at that point it’s a wonder how Nagisa's and Gou’s throats are still intact with how hard they're cheering.

In the end, Makoto clocks an impressive 56.08s -his personal best- just a few seconds shy of the Junior Championship’s record. Meanwhile, in breaststroke, Nagisa does well too, chalking his name in the Top 8. Rei isn’t as lucky, but that’s understandable considering that he’s just learned to swim this year (at least he manages to keep his goggles on this time, that’s an achievement by itself).

The line gets shorter and Haruka is finally up next. The swimmer in front of him has half a lap left to go.

 

“Good luck.”

 

Haruka turns around sharply when he hears the familiar voice. “Rin!” He hisses. “Why are you here?!”

Rin merely smirks and crosses his arms. “I'm here to swim. And I said I’ll watch you, remember?”

“Yes, but not—“

“Nanase! Get ready!”

Haruka straightens up instantly. Ignore Rin, he chants inwardly, willing himself to calm down. Ignore Rin. Ignore.

 

The whistle blows, and he dives in.

The water here is different, Haruka notices the moment the tips of his fingers touch the surface. It’s welcoming as usual, but somewhat… lighter. Easier to carve an opening in, barely resisting to each catch and pull, like it’s enveloping him in a cool, comforting blanket rather than baring its fangs to attack. Perhaps fueled by the passion and dreams of the Samezuka swimmers, the Water here is alive, the ripples molding according to his movements. It’s embracing him. Accepting him.

 

In this Water, Haruka feels at peace.

 

Completing the 100 meters with ease, faster than the other swimmers by a sizeable margin, Haruka looks up, and gasps. What he sees deals a shattering blow to his heart, leaving his stomach twisting in knots, the air around him non-existent.

 

Rin is staring at him in shock, dark red eyes wet and glistening, a single teardrop rolling down his cheeks.

Chapter Text

Rin can only stare as Haruka races past the other swimmers, overtaking them one by one with an unmatchable speed. He is fast, frighteningly so, yet even with that kind of speed, there is a tinge of elegance to his every move, like the water revolved only around him. It’s almost like the time is frozen and everything’s stuck in slow motion, except for one thing; Haruka.

 

There was one other person Rin knew who could swim like this. And that person

 

Closing his eyes, Rin sees it again, the flash of blinding light, the dash of electric blue that left him awed and shaken all at the same time.

He hasn’t seen it since that day, but it's still engraved in his mind. The sight that took his breath away.

 

Haruka smacks the metal plate at the other end and makes his turn, in the lead. Granted, he’s swimming free, which is always deemed the faster stroke compared to butterfly, back and breaststroke, but the sheer efficiency and adeptness of his technique is astounding. Everyone is cheering, yelling around them in a crowd of bounding energy, though the voices are all but muffled to Rin’s ears. As the swimmers approach closer, the voices grow gradually louder, and louder, until it reaches a point that snaps Rin back to his senses.

 

There’s a trail of warm wetness on his cheek.

That’s the first thing he notices. Rin can feel it travel down and hitting his skin, can sense the way his limbs feel heavy and tied to the ground. There’s a weight on his chest that’s pressing down, the thick air of nostalgia suffocating him.

A familiar figure resurfaces from the water. Haruka shakes his head, droplets spewing from his damp hair, and when his eyes finally meet Rin’s glazed ones, Rin watches as the boy’s gaze shifts from indifferent to shock mixed with worry and confusion, all within the fraction of a second.

 

Why is Haru looking at me … like that?

 

“Rin…”

Just as Rin opens his mouth to say something, he tastes salt in the corner of his lips, finally realizing that the wetness was indeed, tears.

Oh. But the tears… why?

 

“Matsuoka! Don’t space out!”

Captain Mikoshiba’s voice rings loud and clear, pulling him staggering back to reality. He is in a training session, he’s supposed to take his mark now, and at least fifty people are watching so he can’t risk screwing this up. Hastily, Rin makes a show of fixing his goggle straps to hide the stinging tears. He moves forward to the edge of the pool, shoulder brushing against Haruka’s, and tries to push the thoughts away.

Rin swims his best, or at least tries to, but there is a certain heaviness that is pulling at him, gnawing at him from the inside. He feels strained, troubled, and with each stroke he takes his mind wanders back to the thought of Haruka, and of him.

 

(Him. The boy Rin has missed so dearly, despite never knowing. The boy Rin remembers only as the bright, shining light. His Shining.)

 

Despite not being at the top of his game (and trust him, Rin knows when he performs and when he doesn’t), Rin comes up in the list of the top 8, qualifying for the final race. He listens as Captain Mikoshiba calls out the names one by one, feeling jittery and anxious. It shouldn’t be this nerve-wracking, it’s just a practice, not like there’re scouts watching them anyway.  Besides, Kazuki, Takeda and the usual faces, they’re all his teammates. The only difference today makes is that Haruka will be racing against him. And in the adjacent lane, no less.

His brain is a mess, his heart is all jumpy, and Rin feels like vomiting. Standing next to him, Haruka is still peering at him like he’s torn between saying something and avoiding him altogether.

Great. Just great.


 

The race ended with Haruka emerging as the winner, to no one’s surprise. Rin came in second, a solid second behind Haruka, followed by the other Samezuka freestyle swimmers. As for the other strokes, Samezuka still prevails as victors, but Makoto and Nagisa gave quite a fight. Captain Mikoshiba is pleasantly surprised with the result, praising all the boys and eagerly offering advices. He’s already rattling on about arranging more practices like this in the future, and Haruka vaguely hears Gou and Makoto agreeing to it.

But Rin. Rin was troubled… Haruka could feel it, even underwater, swimming next to him.

“Hey, Nanase!” A few of the students approach him, three of them Haruka recognizes as his competitors from the race before. A pink-haired boy casually slings an arm around his shoulder like it’s nobody’s business. Haruka frowns, getting a sense of déjà vu. He brushes him off, disturbed. “Great job, you’re quite impressive today. Care to share tips on how to get such skills?”

Skilled? Impressive? Haruka doesn’t care about that. “Where is Rin?” He asks.

Kazuki turns to his friends, but they can only shrug. One of them points to the dorms and says, “Umm, I think I saw him leaving just now. Going back to his room, probably? He does look a bit shaken after the race.”

 

Haruka feels his heart drop.


 

Samezuka Academy, like every other elite boarding school, takes high pride in maintaining the quality of all aspects, food included. The mouthwatering meals are catered to the students’ needs, and with it being a swimming powerhouse, adequate nutrition -especially protein- is of utmost priority. So when the school canteen serves their signature gyudon that always gets the students running to get in queue, but Rin merely glances at it and takes no more than a bite or two in the last fifteen minutes, Sousuke knows something’s up.

Sitting next to him, Rin appears to be deep in thought, pushing the juicy chunks of meat around his plate with the end of his chopsticks absentmindedly. They’ve only had their gruesome swimming practice earlier, and Rin is not one to be sneaking snacks in between meals; clearly ‘feeling full’ is not an acceptable excuse. Sousuke doesn’t plan to butt in at first, but dinner time is ending soon and if Rin doesn’t eat now, he’s going to be hungry. You know what they say, a hungry man makes an angry man. Frankly, Sousuke isn’t keen to deal with that tonight.

“This doesn’t make sense,” Sousuke hears Rin suddenly mutter. The boy has resorted to poking the beef like he’s trying to skewer it. Sousuke tries to ignore, but when Rin gives a particularly hard jab at one of the chunks and it leaps momentarily into the air and lands into his plate (eeeeww), Sousuke decides enough is enough.

“Dude, the heck is up with you? You’ve been out of it for a while.”

Hearing that, Rin looks up tiredly from his food to face Sousuke, who’s visibly worried for him. The dining hall is getting quieter by the minute, with almost everyone done with dinner and clearing up to head back to their rooms. Sousuke gives him a pointed stare, as if he’s trying to read his mind, and Rin has to look away. Sousuke won’t get it, Rin thinks. He usually does, but he won’t this time, because even Rin himself doesn’t understand.

“I can’t help if I don’t know what you’re upset about, Rin,” Sousuke prompts again, growing more concerned.

“It’s Haruka,” Rin lets the name slip from his mouth, together with a gentle sigh. He doesn’t have to look to know that Sousuke is scowling. Sousuke’s okay-ish when Haruka is making Rin all blushy, when it’s still funs and giggles, but he absolutely hates it when Haruka either one; distracts Rin from performing his best in swimming, or two; upsets Rin be it directly, or indirectly. Sometimes Rin wishes Sousuke isn’t so protective, but he’s not in a position to complain because that protectiveness has saved his ass a couple of times anyway.

Taking his friend’s silence as a signal to continue, Rin struggles to elaborate. “His swimming was beautiful. Perfect. The dive, the catch and pull, the kick.”  The scene replays in his head, sending a surge of exhilaration so overwhelming, so difficult to put in words. “Everything was just too—too—ugh, I don’t know how to describe! And he was super fast!

Sousuke’s response is an incredulous stare. “Okay Rin… You know that you’re sounding very much like a fanboy now right?“

“You don’t get it, Sou, I’m saying that he swims like him!” Feeling a flush creeping up his neck, Rin exclaims in exasperation. “The boy from the spring Championship!”

 

A loud clank! resounds from where Sousuke’s pair of chopsticks dropped unceremoniously onto his tray. His hand is suspended in the air, the same show of shock written all over his face.

 

“Wait, you don’t mean?” He asks in an almost whisper.

Leaning across the table languidly, Rin burrows his face into his outstretched arms, emitting a muffled groan. Pushed aside, the food tray and bowl rattle from his movements, rice and side dishes barely touched. “I don’t know, Sou, I just don’t know,” he whines, desperation evident in his tone. “I’m so confused.”

It’s much harder to breathe when your nose is smothered by the fabrics of your clothes, but Rin can’t care less. This is a temporary haven for him, this little crevice made by his two linked arms, a small dark space where he can hide from his troubles.

But not for long. Rin feels a warm hand gripping his shoulder, shaking and pulling him to sit up straight. The light that pours into his vision is offending enough that he has to squint to adjust. When everything appears back as normal, Rin sees Sousuke staring at him, sharp eyebrows knitted together.

“Hey, this is serious,” Sousuke states firmly. “You’ve been looking for this guy since, I don’t know, four, five years ago? Even when your mom stopped you from changing schools, you still had hopes.” Rin cringes inwardly at the little reminder of his young, innocent days; trust Sou for digging up old wounds and embarrassing memories. Ugh, perks of having childhood friends. “Do you even remember how he looked like?”

 

Rin blinks.

That’s the thing. He doesn’t.

 

He’s been straining his mind for the past few hours hoping to recall. He didn’t know his name, which was why he wanted to transfer to Iwatobi from Sano –so he could find out who the talented boy was. How? Easy. He could’ve just joined the swim club, surely the boy would be there. But he didn’t, and so with the passing days the face slowly washed out into a blur. Rin never felt anything stronger than that heart-stopping moment anymore, and now each time he tries to picture it in his head, the whitewash silhouette would only stop at the eyes.

Blue. They’re always blue.

“I… I—Shit, just give me a moment.” Without a name, a face, it’s pretty foolish to even hope for a miracle. But Sou’s asking, so might as well just throw it out in the open. “I think he had blue eyes,” Rin replies. “Yes, that’s it, his eyes were bright and clear, like the ocean.”

 

Sousuke snorts.

 

“Very helpful description there.” He doesn’t laugh, regardless, and all of a sudden Rin feels utterly at lost.

“Don’t people change anyway? Like, puberty and all that.”

“You’re still the snotty brat you were, Rin. I don’t think 5 years would make much difference. Body-wise, probably, but not so much of the face.”

Rin groans, more irritated at himself than anything else. “I can’t help it, alright? I fell in love with his swimming first, not his face.”

Sousuke opens his mouth to throw another remark when the full weight of Rin’s words hit him smack in the face. Did he hear that right? “Hold on… Fell in love?” He croaks, hooded teal eyes going wide in apprehension. “Rin, you said it was a stupid one-time crush.”

 

Oh shit.

 

“Uhhh…” Realising that he’d said something he could never take back and that Sousuke knows him well enough to not accept it as a slip of the tongue, Rin grunts grudgingly, muttering under his breath. “Okay, so maybe it was actually more than just that.” His face is on fire, gosh, at this rate he might as well jump into a volcano.

“So the reason you were so desperate to see him again wasn't to ‘talk about swimming’, was it?” Sousuke air-quotes his words, the mirth in his eyes growing brighter the more fidgety Rin gets. The corners of his lips rise in a slight grin, and he speaks like he’s just had a divine revelation. “You were taken by him. Infatuated.”

“Shut up,” Rin retorts.

“Smitten.”

“I said shush.”

“Enamored.”

“For god’s sake, Sousuke, stop rubbing it in!”

“You fell for him,” Sousuke declares triumphantly, rising from his seat and grabbing his tray, leaving an annoyed Rin behind. He walks away a few small steps before turning around to deliver the finishing blow with a teasing smirk, voice almost drowned by the bell ringing in the background. “And if this kid really turns out to be Nanase, you’ve fallen for him twice.”


 

“Oh, what’s this? A photo album?” Gou asks, picking up the thick book from the top of the shelf. The Iwatobi swim team had yesterday off to allow them enough rest and full recovery, and she’s gone into the equipment room to mark another day off the calendar in the countdown to the next tournament when she sees the album lying around, its cover worn out and yellowing at the edges.

Makoto hears her and appears in the room seconds later, immediately recognizing the album in her hands. “Those are the old pictures from Iwatobi SC, back when we were in elementary,” he replies. “Coach Sasabe must’ve left it here. He showed us the album after he found it in his room last week.”

Nagisa comes bounding through the door not a minute after, rushing towards Gou with a bright smile. His shirt is halfway unbuttoned, golden hair sticking out from all directions; clearly was just in the middle of changing. “Let’s look through it, Gou-chan! I can tell you what happened in each picture,” he offers, wincing when Makoto drops a towel on his hair. “Eheheh, sorry Mako-chan…”

Rei and Haruka enter the room to see what the fuss is all about, only to hear Nagisa whispering not-so-quietly to Gou, “But don’t be scared when you see Haru-chan’s faces, okay!”

“Nagisa-kun, don’t say that…” Rei chides, frowning in disapproval. When Nagisa grins cheekily at him, he sighs and goes back to folding his uniform neatly.

Once the two of them make themselves comfortable next to the pool, Gou begins to flip through the album, all the while having Nagisa overenthusiastically narrate the occasions behind the pictures. Iwatobi SC seems like a very lovely place to be, Gou thinks; warm friendly smiles are ever present, and everyone just seems like they’re having the time of their lives. There’s one with mini versions of Haruka, Makoto and Nagisa stretching by the pool in identical light green swimming trunks, and Gou has to muster all her strength to keep from squealing too loud. Who ever thought that they were such little cuties!

“That’s when we first had the try-out session,” Nagisa explains, pointing at another picture on the next page. “And this was from our first Spring Championship! Hahaha, look at Haru-chan! He won the race yet he still looks super uninterested! It’s fine, Haru-chan, we all know that you’re always smiling the inside, right?”

Haruka spares a glance at the pair from where he is floating in a corner of the pool when he hears his name, closing his eyes again to enjoy the warm sun on his skin.

Nagisa makes a move to turn the page, but Gou stops him, her keen eyes already catching onto a tiny detail.

“Wait, isn’t this…” Gou scrutinizes the picture, trying to make out the familiar face in the background. The boy with maroon hair, gold medal around his neck… Oh dear! Could it be!

“Hmm? What’s wrong, Gou-chan?”

There’s no mistaking it, Gou finally decides. Those teeth are a dead giveaway.

Making sure that Makoto-senpai, Haruka-senpai and Rei are caught up in other stuff, Gou sneakily fishes out the picture from beneath the plastic, grabbing onto Nagisa’s arm to drag him aside. “Nagisa-kun, come with me for a sec.” She looks at Nagisa squarely with gleaming crimson eyes, pushing the photograph into his hands. “Look at this picture,” she whispers, lips pursed in a straight line. “Observe very carefully. What do you see?”

Confused but excited nonetheless (and really, this mixture of emotions is something only Nagisa can have), he does as told. “Let’s see... umm… lots of half-naked boys posing in a group?”

“Not exactly wrong, but a bit to the right?”

A bit to the right? Hmm“I see a bunch of other kids hanging around… Ahhh!” Nagisa yells loudly the moment his vision captures it. “Is that Rin-chan?!”

“Yes, that’s what I wanted to talk about!” Gou says, beaming widely with uncontained joy. “Nagisa-kun, remember the boy I told you, the one my brother was kind of obsessed with after watching him swim?” Nagisa nods, knowing where Gou is going with this. “I think he's Haruka-senpai.”


Rin had filmed part of their training session on Wednesday, but it stopped halfway through when the whole thing with Haruka swimming so magnificently started, and currently he’s left with nothing to work with but a 30-seconds clip of Captain Mikoshiba grilling the fuck out of the Year 1s with his guerilla-style training. Oh, and Sousuke eating tonkatsu secretly in the changing room. Which he probably will have to exclude, because damn, Sousuke looks like an unattractive whale shark with his mouth open like that.

 

Rin stares at the camera placed on the tripod in front of him, feeling lost.

Okay. How is he supposed to come up with an at least 4 minutes video now?

 

It’s every YouTuber’s worst nightmare –lacking of materials to upload.

It’s even more of a challenge coming up with new contents each week when there’s so much going on in his head right now. Haruka being the boy he’s been liking for years is now a possibility he has to accept -not to mention that the kid is fast and talented, like crazy talented- and as Sousuke has kindly reminded, if the theory is true, Rin has wound up falling for the same person twice. Whether the affection is requited or not remains a different story.

 

God, Rin just needs someone to help him sort this mess out. Where is Sousuke when you need him?

(The question is rhetorical; of course Rin knows where the guy is. He’s out in town, stocking up on his manga again. That nerd.)

 

Rin leans back on his chair’s two feet –briefly recalling his mother’s warnings which go unheeded- and sees Nitori lounging on his bunk, a thick book in hand. He knows from experience that the innocent-looking boy’s reading materials tend to lean more towards the… erotic side, so he stays out of it. The cover of the book itself is enough proof that it’s, well, for adults. Not that Nitori is one.

His phone buzzing from the bed breaks Rin out of his reverie. Someone is calling him, and he’s suddenly struck with worry; what if it’s Haru? Crap, he’s not ready to talk to him yet, not until he gets this sorted out. Rin is adamant on ignoring his loudly ringing phone, and thankfully it finally stops, but after a while, a few consecutive tinkling sounds indicate messages coming in.

“Umm, Matsuoka-senpai?” Nitori speaks up, shuffling closer to the edge of his bed to peer down. “I think you should get that. It might be important.”

“I’ll check later.”

Just as Rin replies, another annoyingly loud noise blares from his neglected phone. Nitori’s eyebrow twitches.

Senpai,” Nitori sighs softly, gesturing at his book. “Please?”

Hesitantly, Rin gets up from the chair and crawls back in bed, reaching for the phone lying next to his pillow. Nitori smiles at him and goes back to reading in peace.

Oh, Rin thinks in relief. It’s Gou.

 

Rin sits up so fast, the top of his head collides with the bed’s frame. Nitori gives a surprised yelp, but Rin doesn’t hear it, because the final sentence in Gou’s chain of messages has ultimately shut him down.

What?

No.

It can’t be.

 

“Matsuoka-senpai, are you okay?“

“Nitori!” Rin says, quickly grabbing his bag and slipping the closest piece of clothing, a grey T-shirt, over his tank top. His heart is beating madly, and he feels his breath constrict. Haruka. Haru. “I’m heading out, cover for me if I’m not back by ten.”

“But tomorrow—“

“Thanks!”

The door slams shut.

 

Nitori frowns and shrugs.

Oh well, time to make up more excuses, then. The 3 hours diarrhoea one seems to always work...


“Come on, pick it up…” Rin pleads, phone pressed to his ear as he dashes across Samezuka’s compound, towards the unkempt, overgrown site behind the field. There is a small opening in the fence there, just enough for a person to crawl through, and it’s one of the secrets the students vowed to keep. The school doesn’t know about it, and it’s best if it remains that way. Rin cannot risk applying for an outing now, it’s too obvious that he will not make it back in time, so the wardens will not let him leave.

“The number you have dialed is currently unavailable. Please try —“

“Shit!” He groans. It’s the fifth time, but Haruka is not freaking answering. Heck, the call's not even reaching him! It simply cuts off right to the stupid, stupid message.

 

The next thing that comes to his mind is Makoto. Yes, Makoto is the closest to Haru, isn’t he? Rin scrolls down the contact list, so so glad that he’d saved Makoto’s number from when Sousuke got it from Haru.

 


Makoto stares at his phone, appropriately on silent mode as everyone else are either reading or engaged in a conversation. Even the lone ones in the café are sipping on their drinks in comfortable silence. Makoto contemplates stepping out to take the call, but decides against it.

Rin is calling Makoto gulps. Could it be, that he found out about him and Sousuke spending time together?!

He mouths ‘it’s Rin!to Sousuke sitting across him and picks up before the guy could protest (because he just knows that Sousuke will).

“Makoto, is Haru with you?” Is the first thing Rin says. Makoto feels a bit guilty for the relief that comes flooding in.

“No, I’m out now,” he replies. “Haru’s at home, I think.”

“Can you—“ Rin croaks, hand trembling. He wants to see Haru. He needs to. “Can you tell me the way to his house, please?”

Sousuke’s eyeing him carefully now, and Makoto lets loose a shaky laughter. “Uhhh, I’m not really comfortable with giving out addresses just like that…”

“Please, Makoto. It’s urgent.” Rin’s voice breaks and cracks at places it shouldn’t, and Makoto doesn’t think anyone has ever said his name in such a pitiful way. Rin sounds so helpless, so desperate that all Makoto wants to do now is to wrap layers of downy blankets around him and brew him a cup of soothing tea. Maybe give him freaking cuddles while he’s at it.

 

Damn his Mamakoto instincts.

 

But whatever it is that’s bothering Rin, Makoto can hear that it’s hurting the poor boy. He caves in anyway, and the sincere thank you that Rin stutters after that tells him that he’s done a right thing.

“Hey, what’re you smiling about?” Sousuke asks, peering at Makoto from the top of his Shounen Jump magazine. “What did he say?” The sight of only Sousuke’s teal eyes and raised eyebrows peeking out reminds him of the black male cat that’s new in the neighborhood, always glaring at Makoto yet accepting his offered food keenly, and Makoto can’t avoid giggling a little at the uncanny resemblance.

“Oh, nothing much. I just have a good feeling,” Makoto says. “I’m trying to play Cupid, don’t mind me,” He hums happily and picks up his own copy of Kuroshitsuji, turning to the last read page and settles down in the seat opposite Sousuke.

Obviously it’s a mistake on Makoto’s part to actually think that Sousuke will let that one slip, because the next thing he knows is that Sousuke has snatched his manga away from him, holding it at a distance away. Makoto lets out a loud yelp, causing a few heads to turn, and he slaps a hand over his mouth.

“Sousuke, please give it back!” he pleads, making grabby hands at the item that’s out of his reach. “You’re so mean!”

Sousuke is chuckling, getting a kick out of teasing Makoto. Makoto pouts, that’s his signed copy of Kuroshitsuji, and Makoto had to wait a long, long time during the last convention to get it. Sousuke is an otaku too –a common trait discovered after numerous late-night texts and secret calls- he should know how much it means to him! Regardless of how attractive Sousuke may be, if Makoto’s prized item is harmed in any way, he swears it will be a deal breaker--

A sudden buzz coming from Sousuke’s phone startles them both. The manga slips from Sousuke’s lax grip, landing thankfully in Makoto’s arms. He sighs, relieved.

Instinctively, Sousuke reaches for his phone but halts halfway, turning to offer Makoto an apologetic look. “Is it okay if I check it?”

Makoto nods. Fine, at least he’s still a polite companion (okay what, this is not a date, it’s just two guys going out to buy and read comics together!). “Of course, feel free.”

“Ah, it’s from Rin,” Makoto hears Sousuke say while fiddling with his phone. “He sent me some pictures… huh?”

Sousuke’s exclaim catches Makoto’s attention. He motions for Makoto to come closer and shows Rin’s message. It was a series of FUCK SOUSUKE FCKING HELL ITS HIM IT S HIMMM!!! and a bunch of other incomprehensible words, and it’s not until he sees the photos attached that Makoto finally gets it.

 

Haruka and Rin have met before. In a competition years ago, the one that took Coach Sasabe a whole week’s supply of mackerel to convince Haruka to enter, Matsuoka Rin was there, too.

And now, years later, the two are reunited again.

To think it all stemmed from Haruka watching one single video… What are the chances?

 

“I can’t believe it,” Makoto whispers, smiling gently. “This is all very fairytale-like. I’m so, so happy for them.”

Sousuke watches the shocked expression on Makoto’s face morph into a fond one. “I was waiting for you to say ‘it’s fate’, or something,” he says, staring at Makoto with his chin resting on his hand, lips quirked in a small smirk. “You seem the type.”

Makoto returns the smile with one of his own, feeling fuzzy clouds floating in his chest. He looks down at the way their hands align, how Sousuke’s is just a tad bit larger than his, the perfect size to wrap around his -because Makoto has always wanted this, wanted to be held and not holding, which is a problem when you’re the practically the biggest guy in town. He glances at the stack of manga on the table between them that they’ve agreed to share over the phone last night and thinks back on the fact that Sousuke is a fan of Orca, a persona Makoto takes online (he’ll tell him, he will, he just needs time). And it all just fits together so perfectly, like it was meant to be, and it occurs to him that maybe, just maybe, Haruka and Rin aren’t the only two brought together by fate…

“Well,” he begins, sliding the phone back and letting his hand linger when it bumps into Sousuke’s. “Fate works in strange ways, doesn’t it?”

Chapter Text

Haruka is the middle of cleaning his room when the doorbell rings.

At first, the sound is deafened by the loud whirrs of the running vacuum cleaner, and as he moves from one spot to another, he thinks he’s heard something, but passes it off as random noises. It instantly becomes noticeable, however, the moment he switches off the vacuum –piercing wails of the doorbell in rapid successions, growing in frequency with every second. The person pressing the button is certainly agitated for some obscure reason, and the impatience is now affecting Haruka as well. Annoyed by the unwanted disturbance, Haruka frowns as he makes his way to the door warily.

The problem with living alone and having a door that does not come with a peephole is that, no matter what, you will have to open it. No sneaking around to find out who it is, no asking other people to lie that you’re not at home. Even if it’s a serial killer, you’ll have to open the door first –and probably get stabbed with a 12-inch knife- before finally going “Oh. I shouldn’t have done that.”

So who can it be? Makoto is out in town to get his monthly fix of manga magazines. Nagisa would yell out Haru-chan!! Open up, open up!! and give the door relentless knocks instead of just butchering his bell like some kind of crazed psychopath. Rei is too polite and patient to even press more than thrice. Gou doesn’t know where his house is (or does she?) and frankly, Haruka can’t imagine anyone else dropping by other than them.

Reluctantly, he slides the door open, and then—

 

“Rin?!”

 

Standing in front of him, drenched in sweat and panting for breath is none other than Matsuoka Rin.

Rin looks drained, exhausted, eyebrows knitted in a deep frown like he’s just finished running a marathon then asked to do hundred push-ups and run another lap around the pool. His usually silky strands of hair are plastered haphazardly to the sides of his face, wet bangs sticking to his forehead, and his face is flushed, all the way down to his neck. When Rin opens his mouth to say something, all that comes out is another desperate gasp for air and a choked out “Ha…ru”.

Still bewildered but more concerned than anything, Haruka quickly pulls Rin into the house, shutting the door behind them to block the blistering summer air from joining the already sweltering heat inside. His grip on Rin’s arm is tight as he leads them to the kitchen, intent on giving the boy some goddamn water before he faints from dehydration.

Rin takes the glass with a hasty hand, gulping down the fluid in one go. He closes his eyes and lets out a relieved sigh as the coolness spreads down his parched throat.

Haruka tries not to think of the drop of water that lingers on the tip of Rin’s chin.

 

Towel. Yes, that’s it. He needs to get one.

Haruka releases his hold on Rin, but the boy hurriedly grabs onto his hand, not wanting to let go.

“Wait, Haru,” he says. “We need to talk.”

Haruka stares at him in silence. Of course they need to talk; Haru has questions that demand answering, gaps and blanks he has to fill, and although that requires him to open his mouth and ask –something he rarely bothers to do-, this situation probably is an exception.

(Rin is always an exception.)

With a shrug, Haruka turns and starts walking away with Rin on tow. Rin follows blindly, letting Haruka’s hand on his become the compass. When they reach his bedroom, Haruka notices with amusement that Rin’s turning a few shades of red, but he says nothing about it.

Haruka kicks aside the vacuum nozzle lying on the floor to make room for them to move, mentally noting to put it away later. Calmly, he plucks a face towel from the drawers and throws it at Rin.

“Here. Your sweat’s dripping on me, and I just took a bath.”

Startled, Rin sharply glances at his T-shirt, taking in the large wet patch that spreads out from the neckline down to his chest, turning it into a much darker shade of grey. His hair is also sticking to his skin in a way that makes Rin feel like he’s a cat drowning in the drain. Blergh. Definitely not a great feeling. He’s going to need a long, good shower after this.

Sheepishly, Rin runs the towel over his face and across his neck, the fluffiness giving a satisfying albeit temporary sense of cleanliness. He watches as Haruka bends down to pick and dismantle the vacuum cleaner (no he’s totally not staring at his butt), carefully storing it under the table. It’s only when he’s scanning over the rest of the room that the reality finally comes kicking in.

 

He is in Haru’s room.

Wait. Why is he here again?

 

“You said you wanted to talk,” Haruka mutters, settling down on the edge of his bed. The mattress dips under his weight, creases appearing on the light beige bedsheet.

It’s probably simply his wishful thinking or imagination, but Haruka is patting the bed as if beckoning Rin to take a sit. Next to him. On the freaking bed.

Rin is still staring stupidly at him, so Haruka calls him out on it. “Rin. Sit down.”

Unless he is planning to stand there by Haruka’s closet for the rest of their predictably awkward-filled conversation, Rin has no other choice other than to accept the offer. At least he’ll have a place to hide his shaky hands from sight, instead of clenching them in fists at his side or shoving them into his pockets. Carefully, Rin ambles to where Haruka is sitting, plopping down next to him a good meter away.

 

They both fall silent.

 

(It’s almost comical that the only sounds filling the room are the cicadas’ buzzing.)

 

“You’re not talking,” Haruka says, glancing at Rin from the corner of his eyes for a second. He goes back to staring at his feet.

Rin’s hands twitch from where they rest on the downy sheets. He wants to tell Haruka so badly, that he has so many things to say that he doesn’t know where to start -because that is the truth- but all he can only manage is “So are you.”

Haruka shrugs. “That’s normal, for me.”

If he is in the right state of mind and isn’t suffering from this acute ‘speech ability disappearance’ disorder, Rin would’ve laughed at Haruka’s admittance of his quietness. But Rin is even quieter than Haruka, so he’s not in any position to do so.

Sensing that Rin isn’t going to start speaking out what’s on his mind, Haruka probes first.

“You were crying that day, during training,” he starts, not missing the way Rin flinches in surprise. Oh, so they were tears. He wasn’t just imagining it. “Why?”

“I don’t know.”

Haruka turns to face Rin head on and narrows his eyes, brows furrowing in a subtle frown. “You don’t know why you were crying?”

The incredulous tint in his question is barely there, but enough to show that he’s not buying it. Rin is hiding something. Haruka doesn’t like it.

“I don’t know a lot of things, Haru,” comes Rin’s reply, heavy and strained like he’s just come to that conclusion there and then. His red eyes are blazing, burning with something Haruka doesn’t recognize. Then Rin closes his eyes, runs a hand through his hair, and lets out a weak chuckle that sounded resigned more than anything.

Falling back with an ‘oof!’, Rin spreads his hands out across the bed like an eagle. His eyes are still shut, long lashes brushing against his cheeks, and he has a small reserved smile playing on his lips, but Haruka can see that he’s troubled. Rin is struggling with something; something he wants to say, but can’t.

Haruka does the only thing he can think of. He reaches out and takes Rin’s hand.

 

That seems to kickstart something in Rin’s system. Eyes snapping open, Rin looks at the hand wrapping around his in a loose grip. It’s warm and sweaty, and he realises that maybe Haruka is just as edgy as he is.

A torrential surge of courage washes over him, throwing aside all the doubts Rin had about confronting Haruka and revealing the truth. This is something he wants, someone he needs. Yes, he is afraid of rejection, but god, Rin has waited so, so long for this. Now that he’s found Haruka again, he’s not going to let go.

Haruka is still staring silently at him, expectant. Their eyes meet, but this time Rin doesn’t look away.

“Hey, wanna hear something crazy?” Rin says, sitting back up so they are levelled, the words leaving his mouth without hesitation. No turning back. “I found him. The boy I liked. And after seeing him again, I realised that I still like him, even now.”

Haruka’s eyes widen, his hand clenching a tad bit tighter onto Rin’s. It’s almost as if his world had stopped turning and this is the apocalypse that follows. The clawing in his chest certainly felt so, if not worse.

“That… That’s great,” he mutters, swallowing the lump that’s forming in his throat. “Does he like you back?”

“Do you?” Rin asks. He is smiling, freaking smiling, and for the first time in his life, Haruka wants to punch somebody in the face.

“What?”

“The answer to your question. It’s the same as the answer to mine.”

Haruka frowns, feeling anger, annoyance and confusion morphing into a ball of emotions. Is Rin making fun of him? Asking if he likes him, when it’s obvious that Rin has someone else he fancies anyway?

There’s a sick feeling pooling in his stomach, and he thinks he’s going to throw up. He’s half expecting that Rin is going to make a camera materialise from somewhere and start filming him for a prank video, but then to his astonishment, Rin is pulling away, standing up to walk towards the table by the window. He grabs a picture frame -slotted in between books and papers, clearly forgotten- and stares at the picture which Haruka vaguely recognises as an old one from elementary school.

“It’s you, Haru,” Rin whispers, running his nimble fingers along the sheer glass that frames the picture gently, oh so gently, almost as if everything is a fragile little dream. The picture is similar to the one sent by Gou, the difference being Rin and his teammates have been cropped out. He stops at the spot where Haruka is perched on the floor, holding up his certificate of achievement. A smile tugs at Rin’s lips, and he turns around to look at Haruka, gaze fond and unwavering. “It’s you.”

 

Noticing the further confusion in Haruka’s expression, Rin shuffles closer and sits down again, taking his phone out to show the messages. “Here,” he says, pushing both the phone and the frame into Haruka’s hands. “Read, compare, and try to process.”

 

Haruka blinks, comprehending, before finally looking up to stare wide-eyed at Rin.

 

“So it was really me?”

Rin nods, grinning brightly.

 

“And the red-haired kid who won 100m butterfly was you?”

“You remember me?!”

“I remember a noisy kid yapping away to his friends after the prize giving,” Haruka admits, pointing at the little boy in the photo’s background, ignoring the mock gasp Rin responded with. “I remember thinking ‘god, shut up already’.”

“Haru!” Rin whines. He’s about to tackle Haruka when a loud grumble echoes from his tummy, the embarrassing sound draining colour from his face. Trust his stomach orchestra to protest over lack of dinner.

 

Haruka shakes his head, amused. “Let’s go downstairs, I’ll make something for you.”


 

After Rin is done with his second bowl of rice and grilled mackerel (Haruka vehemently claimed that his house had nothing but mackerel, and damn, who knew mackerels can taste so good?), he insists that he do the dishes, not wanting to be an added burden since he was the only one eating. But after he places the bowl and plate in the wrong place, Haruka takes over, clearly concerned for the safety and order of his kitchen. Rin doesn’t take much offence in that; while he is kinda good with cooking, cleaning up is always something he’d rather leave to Gou or his mother.

Despite Haruka’s instructions to leave and not wait for him, Rin stays. Who is he to resist the opportunity to watch as Haruka work his way around the kitchen, cleaning up the utensils and rearranging the plates like a perfect housewife? N-not that he wants Haruka to be his wife or anything!

 

It’s silent other than the occasional clinks and running water, but they both know that so many things are still left unsaid after their confrontation earlier.

 

To his surprise (what a day full of surprises it is), Haruka puts down the final piece of glass on the rack and turns to look at him.

“The boy you liked, and the person I am today, we are different,” Haruka says. “You call him a genius, but I am ordinary.”

The tone that Haruka used throws Rin off the loop a little. He sounded… indifferent, like he doesn’t care that Rin has spent 6 years of his life looking for him, like it doesn’t bother him that Rin admires him and his swimming. The lack of confidence in someone with such an outstanding talent is almost infuriating. “You’re not! Stop underrating yourself, Haru. I saw you, you were better than some of the best in Japan.“

Haruka sighs, peeling off the apron from his front. “I’m nothing special.”

Hastily, Rin stands, the chair’s legs screeching against the floor with a deafening squeak. He strides towards to Haruka, blood rushing to his head in a dizzying spell. They’re standing near enough to the refrigerator that Rin can spy a single magnet on the door, in the shape of a dolphin. It looks so lonely.

Out of reflex, Haruka tries to back away. Rin grabs his hand before he can.

“You’re special to me,” he says, and he means it.

“Which one?” They’re inches away, too close for comfort, yet still Haruka faces on. He needs to know. “The 12-year old or the current one?”

“Both,” Rin says firmly. “All of you. Haruka, you’re important to me. I can’t lose you, not again. When I try to imagine a future where you’re not there with me, it just… hurts.”

Haruka is silent, but his hands curl into a fist. His lips are pursed, his eyes a stunning blue. “Is this a confession, Rin?” he finally asks.

Cheeks blowing up in a vivid red, Rin stumbles back like he’s just been stung, suddenly realising how close they’ve been. His right foot catches on the leg of the chair and he curses loudly, fighting the searing pain with a groan. The world just isn’t siding with him today. “W-what the heck, what do you think it is, then? A poem recitation or some shit?”

Haruka shrugs, still staring at him with that blank face, although now Rin can see the tiniest hint of an amused smile.

Taking a deep breath, Rin squares his shoulder and gathers all the courage he has in his bones. It feels like he’s going to head off for war or fighting a lion in a gladiator rink rather than confessing his love, really.

He takes one last glance at the blue dolphin magnet within his peripheral vision, its fin held up like it’s cheering him on.

“Look, I wasn’t sure before, but I am now. I like you, even though you never say more than five words—“

“Ten.”

“--Okay, ten words to me at one time. I like you despite you looking bored 90% of the time, despite us spending more time arguing than having civil conversations. And you-- you’re the only one who’s ever shook me up this way.” At this, Rin runs a hand over his face, rubbing it vigorously as though the motions will wash the furious blush away. Which, obviously, it doesn’t. “I know I probably sound like a drama character –damn this is embarrassing- but my point still stands; you changed my world, and I want to be with you. How’s that? Clear enough, Haru?”

 

There is a long, miserable quietness that ensues. Surely the silence isn’t as drawn-out as his head is making it to be, but it is just as torturous as he waits for Haruka’s answer.

 

Haruka has always thought that it’s impossible to ever hear your own heartbeat if it’s outside an adrenaline-fueled race, but Rin proved him wrong.

 

(And it’s rather funny that when he thinks of it; Rin has changed his perspectives, over and over again. Haruka thought that technology was nothing but rubbish, something he doesn’t need in his life. In came Rin and his quirky SharkBoiUnleashed channel, showing him sights he has never seen before. Haruka thought that people are troublesome, that being alone is the best feeling ever, but once he got to know Rin, he finds himself missing him and his perfect smile, perfect hair and perfect voice.

 

Haruka thought that he’d never love someone as much, or even more than he loves Water.

And Rin proved him wrong again.)

 

“Yeah,” Haruka chokes out, the joy in his voice so foreign even to his own ears. “Yes.” 

His hands tug on the hems of Rin’s gray T-shirt, pulling him closer, closer, and a split second later, Haruka’s lips are on Rin’s. He doesn’t know how he manages to land a kiss on Rin anyway, what with his lack of experience and all, and it’s a miracle that their foreheads or noses didn’t clash from the force of him practically crashing his whole face forward, but the bigger question is whether or not Rin is dead, because it sure seems like it. He’s not breathing (though Haruka’s mouth blocking part of his airway might have played a role in that), he’s not responding, not making any sound other than the initial ‘mmmph!’, and his lips feel kinda cold.

Haruka tries to gauge a reaction with a swipe of his tongue (don’t ask how he knows that, having two friends who are lovebirds has its perks), and almost automatically, Rin parts his mouth. Their lips can now slot perfectly against one another, allowing Haruka to tilt his head and Rin to bend down just a fraction to make up for that slight difference in height. Rin’s hands finally unfreeze, one going up to rest on Haruka’s hipbone and the other sliding over Haruka’s back, fingers leaving indentations on the skin through the fabric of his clothes.

There are these little sounds Rin makes -a mixture of moans and whimpers- that’re driving him crazy, and Haruka can feel the way they both melt into the kiss, the way Rin’s lips catch again onto his the second they part, how the space between them grow smaller until there’s almost none left. The rest of the kiss goes by in a blur -it might have lasted for a minute or two, neither of them can be sure, too short for their liking but at the same time long enough to render them giddy and light-headed. Rin’s the first to break apart panting for air, tightening his grip on Haruka and staring at him like he’s the last thing he ever needs on Earth.

 

Haruka is convinced he’s probably giving the same look, too.

 

It was flattering, but at the same time overwhelming. Haruka never thought it’s possible to love someone this much, but he does, and there’s really nothing he can do about it at this point.

 

He’s in love with Rin.

He’s in love with Matsuoka Rin.

 

“You taste like pineapple and mackerel,” Rin suddenly says, the crack in his voice betraying the composure that he seems to have collected.

“Had that for dinner,” Haruka replies, giddiness still spreading in his system. “Still like me now, Rin?”

Rin bites his lips to fight the silly grin, choosing to bury his face in the crook of Haruka’s neck to hide his blush. “Of course, jeez…” He mumbles into Haruka’s skin, laughing lightly. “Is that the kind of question people ask after a great kiss, Haru?”

I wouldn’t know, because that was my first.

“Good,” Haruka says instead, closing his eyes, breathing in tandem with Rin’s warm puffs against his skin, “because I like you too.”


 

“So… Are we a thing?”

Haruka looks up from the clothes he’s folding to see Rin staring at him from across the living room, head resting on his palm. He raises his eyebrows, questioning. “Thing?”

“Yeah, you know, a thing. An item,” Rin struggles to explain, hands moving in various gestures that makes him appear fidgety more than anything. Eventually, he sighs and stuff his hands in his pocket, looking nervous. “Umm… I mean. We’re dating, right?”

“We went for a date months ago. And another one last few weeks,” Haruka pretends to go back to folding clothes, revelling in Rin’s frustration. From the corner of his eyes, he sees Rin pouting, looking lost and worried. He may be dense, but he’s not that clueless. “I’m kidding, Rin. Of course we are.”

Rin instantly lights up, smiling with the force of a thousand sun. He crosses the room, plops down on the floor and slings his arm around Haruka’s shoulder casually (like it’s his natural habitat), giving a soft peck to the top of his head. “Haru! I didn’t know you could joke!”

Haruka glares half-heartedly at the boy. He casts a glance at the clock, noting the time. 10.35pm.

“Don’t you need to go back tonight? Boarding schools have curfews.”

Hearing that, Rin turns sharply to look at the time, cursing to himself for not being mindful. He fishes out his phone, mumbling in concealed panic as he scrolls through the contacts. “By the time I get there it’ll be way past the curfew. Don’t think I can sneak in stealthily anymore---”

“You can stay, Rin.”

“--Figured maybe I could walk back to my house. Cycling is faster, but I don’t have my bike now. Ahhh but Gou is probably asleep already—“

“Rin!” Haruka calls out louder, snapping him out of his ramblings. “I said you can stay.”

“What?” Rin whispers stupefied, the implication in Haruka’s words hitting him hard. “Really?”

“Yes.”

“You’re not worried that I might, stab you in your sleep or something?”

“Funny how you were worried that I would stab you in your sleep, back in the inn,” Haruka reminds. “I thought we’ve gone past that.”

Indeed they have, because somehow along the way, they have gone from online strangers to pseudo-friends and now -boyfriends. Which is a weird, weird course of relationship, as far as two boys are concerned. But hey, what does he know?

The hesitancy slowly dies out as Rin weighs the choices he’s left with. Run all the way back to Samezuka to sneak in and risk getting caught, or spend the night at Haruka’s without the school’s permission and risk getting exposed? It’s a 50-50 situation, but the thing that tipped the scale is that at least here, he has Haruka for company.

Having made up his mind (and there was actually no dispute in the first place, his decision was obvious), Rin hurriedly typed out a cry for help. “Sent a text to Nitori, told him I won’t be back tonight and to cover for me if the warden swings by,” he tells.

 

Haruka nods.


 

One thing leads to another, and now Rin finds himself standing awkwardly at the door, clad in Haruka’s atrocious fish-themed T-shirt and sweatpants, watching his boyfriend (boyfriend! Boyfriend!!) fluff his pillows and smooth the sheet on the queen-sized bed like they’re freaking newlyweds on the first night.

It’s a worse kind of anxiety compared to the night at the hot springs inn, because back then it was just a harmless crush. Now it’s a full blown like, love and want, and the natural law of a healthy young man with normal libido states that when you share a bed with someone you fancy, things are bound to progress further. It just kinda happens.

Wait, we’re not going to do anything, right? Are we? What am I supposed to expect?

God, he feels like a dumbass. The silence engulfing the room doesn’t help one bit.

 

Rin has to speak. He has to, before the tension (and embarrassment) in the room crumples him flat, like an empty can getting stepped on by an angry, dreadful teenager.

“I can, umm, sleep outside, you know,” he says, clearing his throat to rid of the nerves. Haruka pauses in the middle of his bed-setting ritual to listen. “I’m sure your couch is no match for my pillow but hey, I’m tired as fuck and I can get a wink or two if I really try.” Haruka’s empty stare forces him to add, “If you don’t want me here, that is.”

“I want you,” Haruka says instantly, cheeks turning to a rosy hue when he realises what he’s just said. And yeah, Rin is practically dead. Dying and dead. Haruka’s cuteness has just killed him. “Here, I mean. I have a futon.” Haruka tries to clarify, but Rin’s sanity is already halfway gone. “It hasn’t been aired for a while, though.”

Unaired futon is up there in the list of evil things in life, just below wet socks and broken fans in summer, and Rin shivers at the prospect of sleeping in one (the itch from his experience at Sousuke’s place was a traumatic reminder).

“It’s really fine, I don’t want you to feel obligated or anything. Couch sounds great to me.”

“I don’t have a couch, Rin. Only tatami mat.”

Rin’s only one step away from bolting out of the room when he realizes that what Haruka said is true. His house is minimally furnished, and a quick review in Rin’s memory of the living area reveals that there was no couch.

“Right.” Stupid, stupid Rin.  “Yes, of course. How could I not notice.”

Wordlessly, Haruka climbs into bed, taking the left side and leaving a Rin-sized space to his right.

 

Oh. Okay.

It's really happening.

 

Heart thumping madly in his chest, Rin sidles closer, stopping at the edge of the mattress to scratch the back of his neck nervously. “Umm, you do know I can’t sleep without my pillow, right?”

Haruka merely peeks at him, stretches an arm out and pats on it, the glorious sinewy muscles of his bicep for display. “Don’t worry, I have the solution,” he says, like it's the most obvious thing in the world.

 

This is going to be a long night.

Chapter Text

There are repercussions to losing someone close to you at a young, tender age; habits that form, fears that develop. It tends to leave a bigger impact if that precious someone happened to be your own family member. In Rin’s case, it was his father. His mother once told him that when Rin first heard the news, he didn’t cry –he walked towards his room, took the biggest pillow on the bed and rushed towards Gou’s room, plopping down next to her sleeping figure and clenching her hand. She was still unaware of her father’s passing –it was really late and Mrs Matsuoka didn’t have the heart nor the energy to wake her up- so Rin took caution to keep silent, but Mrs Matsuoka recalled seeing Rin’s shoulder shaking as he softly murmured “It’s okay, Gou, from now on big brother will protect you.”

Rin doesn’t remember much, of course, but the thing that stuck around after the unfortunate incident is that pillow. It had somehow became a necessity; a source of comfort. Perhaps it was the memory of having the softness of that huge pillow engulfing him in a soft, warm cocoon throughout what must’ve been the most difficult night of his life that caused Rin to not be able to sleep without it.

It’s the only thing that made him feel… protected.

 

But for some obscure reason, Haruka’s arms seem to be the only exception to this.

 

It’s ludicrous, really, because Haruka is shorter than him (yes, the two inches count) and evidently, if there’s anyone that’s built capable to protect the other, it’s Rin.

Haruka is skinny for his height, muscles too scant and lean for an athlete, a competitive swimmer. Rin puts great pride in his sharp eyes, and he knows when someone has been working out and training strength or not. And Haruka definitely hasn’t. Obviously, he looks good, attractive enough to appear in Rin’s dreams countless times -most of which details Rin would rather not elaborate on- but never would he ever imagined that being in Haruka’s arms can make him feel so safe.

“Can’t sleep again?” Haruka whispers, shifting a little to move the weight of Rin’s head on his arm.

“Kinda.” Opening his eyes, Rin sees that Haruka still has his closed, frowning over his disturbed slumber. The sight of those furrowed eyebrows makes him feel a tad bit guilty. “Don’t mind me.”

“You’re grinding your teeth, of course I’d mind.”

“I do not!”

“You do. And you move a lot. It’s noisy.” Haruka chooses that moment to turn to his side, the movement causing his whole body to completely shield Rin’s from the light coming from the night lamp, casting a looming shadow over him. It becomes infinitely harder to see, and when his pupils manage to accommodate and adjust to the decreasing light source, he can make out the silhouette of Haruka’s body. To make matters worse, his chest is fully facing Rin, and the temptation of shoving his whole face and making a home there –smack in the middle of Haruka’s pectorals- is growing at a maddeningly fast rate. “Come closer, Rin. You’ll sleep better this way.”

Acknowledging that it’s a lost battle from the beginning, Rin scoots over to Haruka, feeling the summer heat and warmth emanating from the body next to him. The air is hot, Rin notices grudgingly. Haruka doesn’t seem to mind, in any case he appears to be completely fine with the sleeping arrangement.

Haruka’s free arm is now resting on his waist, not at all in the romantic hold Rin so often sees in the dramas and read in the novels, but more of a big heavy log pressing against his ribs. For the lack of better place, Rin carefully wraps his arm around Haruka, reaching his back, fingers splayed over the bony ridges of his scapula.

Rin half expected that Haruka would smell like fish. To his utter surprise, Haruka’s scent is sweet, almost like berries. Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries; a mixture of any delicious, juicy berry he can think of, and all of a sudden Rin gets the urge to bite.

“Your breath is tickling me,” he chokes out, taking in deep breaths to calm down, which serves to make it worse because now Haruka’s sweet scent is assaulting him from every direction. How the hell did he survive the night in Shin’onsen anyway?

“Just sleep, Rin.”

Rin would, if he could. He’s just trying really hard to fight from pitching a tent right now. True, they are now in a relationship, but it’s still too soon, and an awkward boner is still going to be awkward.

Feeling uneasy, he tries to settle in, when the niggling thought at the back of his mind resurfaces. That’s right, he knew he had forgotten something. “Uh oh. I just remembered,” Rin gasps. “I haven’t posted my weekly vlog today.”

Haruka doesn’t even flinch, only tiredly muttering “Do it tomorrow, then.”

“Tomorrow? They’re going to notice, Haru. I have a fixed schedule, there might be people waiting for the freaking video!”

Haruka lets out a displeased grunt at the sudden ruckus Rin is making, trying to pull him back but to no avail. Rin is already leaning over him to grab the night lamp’s cord and switch it back on before scrambling out of bed, frantically looking for a way to solve the problem at hand.

“You have a camera, Haru?”

“No. Why.” When he doesn’t get a reply, Haruka sits up in reluctance, rubbing his eyes sleepily. The light is still making him see spots dancing behind his eyelids. “Rin?”

“Lend me your laptop for a while, okay?”

Seriously? Haruka isn’t in the mood for this. “It’s midnight,” he mumbles, sinking back into the comfort of his pillow, splaying his hand over the warmth left on Rin’s side. “I want to sleep.”

“Please? Just this once, Haru. It’s really important for me to stick to the schedule. It’s like a YouTuber’s code, you know,” Rin pleads, shaking Haruka’s shoulders. When the boy continues feigning ignorance, Rin doesn’t give up, instead he starts grinning slowly as the most brilliant idea pops up in his head. “I’ll take you out to the restaurant we went the other day. Best mackerel in town…?”

Haruka stiffens immediately. Quietness ensues as his hazy mind struggles to weigh between a good night’s slumber and a foodgasmic meal.

“I can order whatever I want?” He softly asks, prompting a chuckle from Rin.

“Of course, you can wipe the whole place off mackerel too, I won’t stop you.”

 

Do it for the mackerel, Haruka thinks as he trudges to the table where his laptop is charging.

 

----------

Haruka initially planned to just shove the goddamn laptop to Rin and go back to sleep, but there’s just something so captivating about Rin filming himself on the camera that he cannot resist staying up to watch.

As an avid viewer of Rin’s videos (in other words, a fanboy), Haruka is aware of the charm and charisma that Rin’s always had. Every word that comes out from his mouth sounds attractive, like he’s trying to lure people in, and though Haruka doesn’t know if the effects are the same on everyone, it pretty much worked on the 500k subscribers Rin has. It was one thing to see the final result –the polished video with hours and hours of retakes, jump cuts and editing- but actually witnessing what goes on behind the scenes is an experience of its own.

Rin has his phone on a makeshift tripod, a small wooden easel Haruka used to place his canvas for painting which has been elevated to eye-level by stacking boxes at the bottom. It isn’t the best setup, that’s for sure, but it is the best Haruka can offer in his half-asleep state. And thanks to the camera’s wide angle, the only place Haruka can stay at without getting into the shot is the far corner of the room, next to the window.

He curls up in his little spot (Rin actually wanted to film downstairs so he wouldn’t disturb Haruka sleep, but there’s no way in hell Haruka is letting him roam around his house unattended, who knows what embarrassing stuff he can find), watching silently as Rin goes off talking and talking and talking, about his week, about school and some miscellaneous things which Haruka cannot really catch. Once in a while, Rin will pause to check on the camera or think of other things to say. Rin’s voice is melodious, so incredibly soothing that it sends him into a daze…

All of a sudden, an arm wraps around his shoulder and jolts him, alerting Haruka. He’s about to grab the nearest defensive object to hit the intruder on the head before realising that it’s just Rin, holding a phone to his face.

 

What the heck. Is he filming me?

 

“Oi, Rin! What are you doing!”

“Introducing you to the viewers. Say hi, Haru!” Rin says cheekily, sitting down next to him to fit them both in the frame. “We’re having a sleepover tonight, so yeah, sorry about the shitty resolution. I left my camera in my room and have to make do with my phone instead. Speaking of which, you guys don’t know him yet.” Rin flashes a mischievous grin, nudging Haruka on the shoulder. “Well, he’s Nanase Haruka, my rival. We’re competing against each other in the next swimming tournament in 100m freestyle. He’s pretty good, but I’m sure I can kick his butt!”

Haruka stares blankly at the camera, not knowing how to react. Both to being referred to as Rin’s rival, and the declaration of war which he frankly isn’t even interested in. “-‘s not like I swim to win anyway…”

“As you can see, he doesn’t like talking that much but his cute little face makes up for that.”

“I’m not cute,” he retorts, glancing at Rin’s profile. “You are.”

At that, Rin’s expression falters, quickly morphing into disbelief. “Don’t make me blush in front of the camera, they’ll make fun of me in the comments!” He exclaims in exasperation.

“You started it first.” Haruka shrugs. “Besides, it’s the truth.”

“You’re unbelievable,” Rin groans and looks away, obviously hiding his blush. He’s still getting used to it, but Haruka learns lately that he immensely enjoys watching the colour red bloom on Rin’s face whenever he’s being complimented.

Despite trying his best to stay awake and keep Rin company, Haruka can feel his eyelids getting heavier by the second. It’s late, so late that even his fondness for Rin cannot overcome his brain’s distress signal begging for a good night’s rest, but he knows that Rin’s not going to be done any time soon. The boy’s leaning against him, head rested on his shoulder as he fiddles around with his phone, checking the recorded clips to make sure that the picture quality is satisfactory. The videos, once edited, would only amount to around four minutes, which is way too short for a vlog as Rin’s usually averages 7-10 minutes, depending on how eventful his week is.

“I still have to make the video at least a few minutes long… “ Rin says quietly, shifting to snuggle closer. “How about playing some games?”

“I don’t have games. That’s more of Makoto and Nagisa’s thing.”

Haruka lied about not being into games, of course, he does play titles that interest him, but he’s never going to tell Rin that he has beaten the Extreme mode of that ‘Let’s Go! Deep Sea Creatures’ game at least a dozen times. That’s just… weird and unattractive.

“Hmm… We can still look up for stuff online. Interesting things, like challenges or dares. Let’s see…” Rin pulls up a search on his phone and starts to go through a list of suggested activities. Peeking from the top of Rin’s head, Haruka realizes that all of so-called ‘challenges’ have strange names and even weirder rules and instructions. A feeling of dread begins to pool in Haruka’s stomach because there is no way -no chance in hell- that’s he’s going to make it out of this with his dignity and sanity intact.

“Ah, how about the Chubby Bunny challenge?” Rin asks, pointing excitedly at one section on the website.

Skimming through the descriptions, Haruka frowns. Putting marshmallows in your mouth to see who can fit the most at a time... Won’t it dribble out if it gets too much? He’s already crossed it out in his mind at the sheer grossness of it, but it’s the warnings that truly throws him off kilter.

 

‘WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT ALONE. RISK OF CHOKING TO DEATH.’

 

“Rin, people can actually die doing this,” Haruka deadpans. “And do I look like someone who keeps marshmallows in their house?”

“You have a point.” Rin slides his finger across the screen to hunt for the next option. “Then… Charlie Charlie—“

Haruka’s eyes land on the phrase ‘Charlie Charlie involves summoning a ghost using—‘ and flat out refuses. “No. Don’t even think about it.”

“Guess the Body Part?”

No.

“My Boyfriend Does My Make-up?”  Rin grins up at him and chuckles when he sees the glare. “Don’t give me that look, I’m just teasing you. Ah, how about the Whisper Challenge?”

The title’s harmless enough, Haruka thinks, and it’s probably the only one that doesn’t involve dying or being publicly humiliated. He huffs in defeat. “Sounds quiet. I’m okay with that.”

 

--------------

Regrets come flooding in like waterfalls as Haruka sits an arm’s length away from Rin, headphones over his ears plugged to Rin’s phone. From the gaps between Rin’s fingers splayed across the screen, he spies a playlist of English songs, no doubt ones he has never heard before.

Seconds from now, those very songs will be blasted in his ears at a volume high enough to render him temporarily deaf to his surroundings. Which is, apparently, what the Whisper Challenge is all about.

“I am not okay with this.”

Rin raises his eyebrow, unamused. “You agreed, no backing out Haru.”

“I didn’t know we have to blast songs in our ears.”

“It’s the whole point! If the noise is not loud enough then you can clearly hear me whispering!” Rin adjusts the headphones so they sit snugly on Haruka’s head before cranking up the volume meter on the wire. “Okay, ready?”

“To lose my hearing? No--”

Haruka barely hears Rin yell “Start!” before the sounds of electric guitar rush into his ears in a stream of harsh melody he could hardly appreciate as music. It’s in English, Haruka realizes as the first string of lyrics are heard -which is something to be expected since it’s from Rin’s song library- but it still irks him a little.

The song is so loud and distracting that it takes a while for him to finally notice that Rin is trying to say something to him.

 

Trying being the key word.

 

“What?” Haruka asks, signalling with his hands. “I can’t hear you!”

Rin mouths the words again, a bit slower this time, but Haruka has long since given up on listening. He tries to read the lips instead, and even that… doesn’t go too well. He could only make out one or two syllables, something that begins with o and ends with i.

“Yakitori wa umai? (Grilled chicken tastes good?),” he guesses. 90% chances of being wrong, but hey, at least he tried.

Shaking his head, Rin struggles to hold back his laughter. The way Rin’s shoulders shake is more annoying than endearing, so Haruka takes off the headphones and scowls.

“What did you say?”

The redhead smiles smugly. “I can’t tell you. You have to guess until you get it right.”

“That’ll take forever. Just tell me.”

“Oh, come on, Haru! That defeats the purpose of this game!”

“Fine, three guesses,” Haruka says. “Three guesses, and you’ll have to tell me the answer.”

“You’re such a spoilsport,” Rin replies, but agrees anyway.

 

It turns out that Haruka is, simply put, really really bad at lip-reading. They’ve done 4 sentences so far, but at this rate Rin doubts he can take one more nonsensical guess. The fifth will be the last, he decides.

“Haruka no me wa kirei (Haruka’s eyes are pretty)”

The boy merely blinks and tilts his head. “Haruka no me…” He starts, pausing to find the right words. Rin feels his heart speed up in anticipation; maybe he’ll get it right this time, maybe—

“Haruka no me ga kirai. (I hate Haruka’s eyes.)”

 

Rin facepalms.

 

“What the hell, Haru, that’s so close!” He huffs, disappointed. It really was a close one, barely two syllables different. “But the meaning’s totally off, okay. I certainly do not hate your eyes, in fact I said that they’re pretty.”

Hearing that, Haruka’s expression barely changes, but he reaches a hand out to softly clasp one of Rin’s. “Thanks,” he quietly says.

Rin glances at their intertwined hands and smiles. Oh well. “Here, my turn.

 

------------

It’s all fun and games until the gruelling editing process starts. Usually, Rin takes a day or two to finish up a video, and even then it’ll be proofed by him and Sousuke first before it goes on the Internet, but now with barely a few hours to go before the sunrise, Rin finds himself stuck with an unfamiliar laptop, a bunch of blurry clips and a very, very distracting Haruka sitting by his side.

For some reason, Haruka has been observing him intently for the past half an hour, following closely his every move. Rin thought that he’s just curious of the process, but then he noticed that Haruka wasn’t even looking at the screen. He was only looking at him.

“What,” Rin asks, finally turning to face the boy. Haruka shrugs and mutters a soft “nothing”, and it’s a blatant lie Rin isn’t willing to buy.

“Haru, I can feel lasers shooting the side of my face. What is it?”

There it is; Haruka fidgets a little before scooting closer to run his fingers through the red silky strands dangling by his face. “Your hair is getting into your eyes,” he says, vivid blue irises burning with an intense determination. “Give me a hair band.”

“You’re kidding, right? Do you even know how to tie ponytails?”

“I’ve had practice. Makoto’s little sister always asked me to do her hair whenever I came around.”

The image of Haruka perched behind a little girl while working on her hair is amusing. Rin makes a mental note to ask Makoto for a picture the next time it happens, just to satisfy his curiousity. “Fine,” He replies, fishing out a black band from his pocket. “Just, don’t pull my scalp off.”

 

Much to Rin’s surprise, Haruka really is good at it.

 

Haruka’s nimble fingers feel heavenly as they glide through his hair, gathering sections of his hair with profound expertise. The scraping sounds are so ridiculously calming that it takes Rin’s all to not fall asleep right then. It must have something to do with the weird ASMR thing he found that day, god knows how much tingles he felt after listening to those audios.

With his hair (and Haruka) out of the way, Rin finds things a lot easier to manage, and just some moments later, the video’s done and uploaded to his channel.

“Done! Finally!” He shouts, placing the laptop on the table and falling back onto the bed, next to Haruka. “Ugh, I’m so tired…“

Wordlessly, Haruka tugs the night lamp’s cord and wraps his arm around Rin, returning to their positions before the crazy impromptu vlog fiasco happened, finally falling asleep.

 

-----------

Haruka wakes up to bright morning rays seeping through the curtains and long limbs sprawled over his abdomen in a way that can only be described as a koala gripping onto tall bamboo sticks.

There’s a heavy weight crushing him, not of the ‘help me I’m having a heart attack’ type but in the ‘hey, there’s someone here with me and oh my god did we sleep together’ kind of way. Warm puffs of air hit the front of his chest at regular intervals, and something’s tickling his nose, something that still holds the traces of that familiar vanilla smell.

He peers down and sees the mop of crimson hair -rendered a shade darker by the shadows of the closed curtain- moving just the tiniest bit with each breath he takes.

Haruka can’t help asking himself: Am I still dreaming? It all feels too surreal.

“Rin?” Haruka lightly shakes the body lying on top of him. “Rin, wake up.”

A few harsher pushes and Rin finally stirs, opening an eye to squint at him as if trying to identify the person disturbing his sleep. There is a split second of astonishment that flashes in his eyes, that one fine moment when he recognises that it’s Haruka, his Haruka, when his lips quirk up in a small, pleased smile. “—Mornin’…” He greets lazily.

 

Oh no, he’s cute. Haruka thinks, heart growing bigger and fuller in his chest. He’s cute, and I want to kiss him.

 

“Can I,” He blurts out and pauses, looking unsure of himself. “Can I kiss you?”

Rin’s sudden raspy laughter fills the air. “You know, if you’re going to ask like that every time you plan on kissing me, we’re in for some serious relationship issues, Haru.”

“That’s a yes, then.”

“Were you expecting a no?” Rin hastily extracts himself from wrapping around Haruka (finally he can breathe normally) and sits up, propping his body against the headboard. The sunlight catches on his hair, making the edges almost golden. Beautiful.

Rin doesn’t give him much time to prepare before he swoops in for a quick press on the lips, warm hands resting on Haruka’s nape in a gentle fleeting hold. The sheets rustle underneath them, bed letting out a small squeak as Haruka shifts to lean closer, wanting to savour the moment. He feels warm, warm all-over from the heat that’s not entirely due to summer, and even though the kiss itself is light and innocent, the fact that it’s Rin he’s kissing simply leaves him breathless.

Haruka has never drowned; Water just doesn’t allow it to happen. But this feeling certainly comes close to that.

They pull away with a sigh, Rin sliding his hands down to rest on Haruka’s shoulders. There’s a standstill silence; fragile, magical.

 

A sudden loud blast of ringtone from Rin’s phone startles them both.

 

Nitori’s name flashes on the screen as the phone rattles on the table. Rin considers ignoring it in favour of kissing Haruka again (who’s currently staring at him like he’s hung the moon for him), but it could be an emergency.

Rin picks up. Before he can say anything, Nitori’s already wailing for help.

“Senpai! Senpai, please come back, please!”

“Hey, hey… calm down and tell me what’s wrong?”

“It’s Y-yamazaki-senpai, he’s waiting for you in the room. He’s so scary, he’s been smiling non-stop since this morning…” Nitori sounds more desperate and frightened than usual, which is saying something because it’s Nitori -he’s 85% of the time a trembling ball of anxiety, the other 15% of confidence only coming out when Rin praises him for something. “Senpaaaaaiii I don’t wanna die!!”

Growing increasingly concerned, Rin steals a glance at Haruka, who seems to have heard bits and pieces of their conversation. “Okay, I’ll be back soon. Just, keep a distance from him, alright?” Rin ends the call with a sigh. “Haru… I, I have to go.”

“It’s Sunday. You’re not staying for breakfast?”

“I wish I can, but Nitori is in trouble and I have to help him sort it out,” Rin replies as he begins collecting his things and stuffing them into his bag. They make their way to the front door in a palpable silence, only broken when Rin grabs Haruka’s hand and gives it a squeeze. “I’ll call you,” he says.

“No phone, remember?” Haruka reminds. “I’ll text you when I get a new one.”

Rin nods in understanding and leans down to steal a kiss before taking off with a satisfied grin, leaving behind a flustered and bewildered Haruka.

 

----------

“Matsuoka-senpai, thank god! I’m close to peeing myself I don’t even know what to say he just kept grinning like he’s planning a murder—“

Nitori starts babbling at the speed of light the moment he sees Rin heading towards him down the hallway, looking close to tears. He’s all jittery and genuinely frightened, so Rin pats his shoulders to try calm him down.

“Nitori, I got this. Is it okay if you go to Momotarou’s room for a while? Watch him feed and play with Pyunsuke or something. I’ll tell you when it’s safe to come back.”

Relief instantly replaces the fear on Nitori’s face. “Okay. Be careful, Matsuoka-senpai.”

Rin is determined to give the devil inside the room a good beating (figuratively, of course, he’ll never get physical with Sousuke no matter how bad their fight gets). He wastes no time and enters, seeing his childhood friend lounging on his bed, arms behind his head and legs crossed high, smiling like a madman getting his first kill. No wonder Nitori was scared shitless.

“Mind telling why you’re here scaring the poor kid’s pants off, Sou?” Rin crosses his arms, demanding explanation. Sousuke hasn’t said anything yet Rin can already guess what this is about; very few things can cause that sinister face to appear. “Look, I know this isn’t because of you getting scouted into the National team, because if it is, you won’t be here. You’ll be in the pool, training already. So my guess is… Makoto?”

“You know me well, Rin,” Sousuke sits up excitedly. “We held hands.”

“So you did go out with him yesterday! You told me you were getting some manga!” Rin exclaims, pointing a finger accusingly.

“We did, we went to the bookstore together. And got coffee afterwards,” Sousuke says, looking pleased with himself.   “First date mission accomplished.”

“You sneaky, lying bastard. I told you everything about my love life and you kept yours a secret from me.”

Sousuke merely shrugs, “I didn’t want to get my own hopes up, Rin,” “How did Nanase react when you told him?”

“How did you know—“ He sees Sousuke’s raised eyebrow and remembers that this is his childhood friend, Yamazaki freakin’ Sousuke, of course he must’ve done his research. He could’ve stopped by last night, discovered that Rin was missing, and put two and two together. “Nevermind. It’s mutual. We kissed.”

 

“YOU KISSED?”

 

“We kissed.” Rin smirks, feeling the urge to brag. “Twice.”

 

“YOU KISSED NANASE TWICE?”

 

“And I… I spent the night at his house,” he adds.

 

“YOU WHAT?” Sousuke looks like he’s about to explode. It might’ve been a bit of an information overload for him, and Rin purposely left the last part vague, just to mess with him. “Wow. I didn’t know you had it in you.” A pause. Sousuke’s eyes widen comically, like something had just hit him in the head. “Wait… Did you, you know, had it, in you?”

Rin frowns, trying to decipher what it means, and when he does, his skin tone turns from normal to white to bright crimson so fast that he’s probably qualified for a new world record.

“Sousuke!” He doesn’t know which offends him more; the fact that Sousuke has just accused him of doing it with Haruka, or that he had implied that Rin was the one taking it up the ass.

Which, when the time comes, might not be wrong (he hasn’t exactly decided?), but still.

“I’m just curious! Don’t blame me, you’re the one who’s taking things so fast!”

“Pffft… Please, Sou. We both know that once you and Makoto are officially a couple, you’d be all over that Makobooty in a sec.”

“Well, his fault for being so goddamn perfect. I could stare at his beautiful eyes all day.” Sousuke smiles fondly at that thought. Rin grabs the closest pillow he can reach and smacks it right in Sousuke’s face, cackling at the loud wail of protest. “Hey!”

“Rub the stupid smile off your face, it’s disgusting.”

“Like you’re not just as bad,” Sousuke scoffs. “By the way, Captain said there’s no training today. The tournament’s getting close, so the next two weeks will be pretty damn intense and we won’t have much time anymore. Want to go film a new ‘101 Places for a Romantic Date’ episode?”

“How many have we done?”

“Let me just check,” Sousuke lifts the computer lid and waits for it to start. He always leaves the computer on sleep mode, it makes it easier for both of them to work on the videos any time they’re free. Few seconds later, the screen lights up and SharkBoiUnleashed’s home page appears. Sousuke quickly scrolls through the playlist, keeping count of the published videos and the ones in queue. “Roughly 35. We got swamped with school work and swimming last few weeks so we’re quite behind. Your fans don’t seem to mind, though. They’re really understanding.”

And that is something Rin will eternally be grateful for. His fans are the core of his YouTube success, the support he gets from them never ceases to amaze him. In return, he wants to deliver the best content for them, which is why he’s always on the lookout for new, interesting things to share with the viewers. “So, location suggestion?”

“There’s a little creek nearby, close to the place where they’re having the Summer Festival this year. A bridge crosses over it, and I heard that it’s great for fireworks viewing. Kinda high up, quiet and away from the crowd,” Sousuke types something into the computer and pulls up a page showing some photographs of the place from different angles. They both hum in approval. “Pretty, right? We can introduce it to them, maybe some new couples in Iwatobi area will want to check it out.

“Okay. I’ll get ready first, we gotta leave before noon or it’ll be too hot then.” Rin opens his closet and starts idly fiddling with the clothes. New couples, huh? Should I ask Haru out for the festival? He might have plans already. Or will he be shy to go with me…

“What’s this, Rin? Your inbox is overflowing with comments. They’re on a video posted at 2.50AM—“ Sousuke lets out an abrupt gasp. “Holy shit, seriously?”

Rin doesn’t pay him much attention, still sifting through his wardrobe to look for something to wear. He knew back then that Sousuke will react this way, but desperate times simply call for desperate measures. “You weren’t here and I was running out of ideas, okay,” he attempts to explain. “And then I found out that Haruka is the boy I was looking for and I just, completely forgot about it. The video resolution is shitty but the content is gold.”

“No, that’s… really not the issue. Here, come and look at this.” Sousuke beckons him to move closer, pointing at the laptop screen in urgency. He looks amused, very amused, and Rin can’t shrug the feeling that something big might be off…

 

 

Oh my god.”

“Yeah,” Sousuke laughs and begins to clap slowly as Rin continues to stare at the screen in shock. “Congratulations, Rin. Your fans have started shipping you and Nanase.”